Honouring Cork's Champion Pitch & Putt Player & Club Officer
BILLY O’BRIEN of Ballinlough Pitch & Putt Club, Cork, Hall of Fame Induction
William ‘BILLY’ O’BRIEN (Ballinlough) has been one of the most enduring and engaging personalities on the Cork Pitch & Putt scene since the 1960’s.
When he joined Ashgrove, Ballinlough, in 1966, Ashgrove boasted 18 holes and was situated behind the Silver Key pub, close to the modern day Ballinlough course. In the 1971 Cork Intermediate Strokeplay championship played out of the Ashgrove club, Billy fired 103 for 36 holes to tie with Bernard Feeney of Rocklodge at Douglas. His oppoent prevailed in the nine holes play off.
Superb Playing Career
Unfortunately Ashgrove had to cease operations on their course in 1972, having lost a tenancy claim under the Landlord and Tenancy Act. However, the committee and the members stuck together and with the help of Cork County Board, St. Stephen’s and Garryduff clubs, the members kept playing and functioning as a club. Subsequently, the Ashgrove course was purchased by the Beamish and Crawford Brewery, who reopened the course for its employees in late 1974. Later it accepted non employees as members and most of the previous Ashgrove members rejoined the Beamish & Crawford club.
Billy O’Brien headlined a Beamish & Crawford team that clinched the 1976 Cork Intermediate League title,beating Rocklodege by six and a half to two and a half in the final at Douglas. Peter Carrigy, Joe Donovan, John Field, Billy O’Brien, Jerry Quirke, Seán Carrigy and Des Guerin completed the winning line up.
No Home Course Again
In 1976 at St. Anne’s, Billy captured the National Gents Intermediate Strokeplay championship. The Beamish & Crawford man birdied the last five holes in a row to post a 16 under par 94 and head Tom Hallahan (St.Finbarr’s) by six strokes. O’Brien’s 94 was bettered by just two players in the senior championship. Fate again intervened and the course was sold by Beamish & Crawford for housing development in the mid 1980’s. Undaunted, the members, with the help of the local community in Ballinlough, procured the land on which the present course stands. Initially a rocky wilderness, the area was cleared and became the present top class Ballinlough course. The course has hosted many premier events over the years.
Billy O’Brien was a constant through all that change and is currently chairman of Ballinlough (2021) is a founder member and was also Competitions Secretary in 1986, when the Ballinlough course was officially opened.
Former Fords Of Cork Employee
Club Captain when Beamish & Crawford (James O’Shaughnessy, Jim O’Keeffe, Chris Aherne and Seán O’Connell) won the 1980 Munster Bass Team Event at Beamish & Crawford, Billy also took part in the first Pitch & Putt Marathon, which was held at the course in 1984. Playing in teams of four, they completed 40 rounds in 24 hours for charity. In that noble effort, Billy was joined by Jack Hurley, Paudie Kelleher, Tim Foley, Martin O’Sullivan, Jim O’Keeffe, John Sheehan, Seán O’Connell, John Keegan, Michael Collins, Dónie O’Regan and Chris Aherne. Employed in the Ford operation on Centre Park Road, Cork, Billy regularly represented his company in the Cork Inter Firm tournament, which was hugely popular in the 1970’s/80’s.
Club Chairman Par Excellence and Longevity
As a key committee member at Ballinlough,Billy played a vital role when the first national championships were contested over the Temple Hill layout…the 1996 Juvenile Strokeplay and Inter County test. As club chairman, Billy masterminded Ballinlough’s memorable hosting of the Millennium Year National LadiesStrokeplay championship in July 2000.
Club Player Of the Year in 2003, Billy was also in the chair for Ballinlough’s next national event..the 2010 All Ireland Scramble that they co-hosted with near neighbours, Douglas. Billy finished 11th on 107 in the 2005 All Ireland Men’s Over 55 Senior Grade Strokeplay Championship at Shandon. His form remained consistent enough to contest the equivalent 2019 event at ESB.
Recognition and Appreciation at Cork Hall Of Fame
In the 2009 Mixed Foursomes at Ballinlough, Billy O’Brien teamed up with his clubmate, Jo Gayer to score +5 and finish runners up to their Ballinlough colleagues, Maureen O’Connor and Seán McNamara, who totaled +7. Ballinlough were Cork Mixed Team Event (Tom Fitzgerald Memorial) champions at Ballinlough in 2015. Billy linked up with Claire Murphy, Jo Gayer and Michael Daly in a four person team that garnered 170 points, which proved five points better than the field.
In further accolades Billy O’Brien received the Cork County Board Personality Of The Year Award in 2015. This was recognition and appreciation of his almost half century of service to Pitch & Putt. He was elected Chairman of Ballinlough in 1997 and 2021 signifies 24 years in the key pivotal role. His dedication to the club is unparalleled and he also served as County Board delegate.
Family of Father and Son Continuity
The Pitch & Putt family legacy is further embellished by Gregg O’Brien, also an accomplished Pitch & Putt exponent, who in the company of his dad, Billy, have become serial club winners at the Ballinlough course.
CORK HALL OF FAME Editorial Comment
BILLY O’BRIEN, Pitch & Putt player, committee member and outstanding Champion Club Volunteer at Ballinlough Pitch & Putt Club of many decades, is now also incorporated as a Cork Champion Club Volunteer Inductee. This honour is global recognition and appreciation initiated by club colleague, Michael Casey, who has been part of our production team for several years.In appropriate time we will contemplate a personalised presentation/souvenir to mark this All Ireland Hall Of Fame Induction. Club Volunteers are the lifeblood of sports clubs all over Ireland and since we incepted this award in 2010, many outstanding club members have been honoured.
Derry JF Doody
MICHAEL CASEY, loyal Ballinlough Pitch and Putt member and sports correspondent at Cork Hall Of Fame, is the official Nominator of BILLY O’BRIEN.
Original tribute compiled by John Manning @ Pitch and Putt Column, The Echo, Cork
Reproduced by kind permission by All Ireland Hall Of Fame.