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‘A Hundred Years Of Golf At Baronscourt’

Golf Newtown Jim Cap#46703C

ROY Keane accused Sir Alex Ferguson of telling “a pack of lies’” to sell his while the most capped player in world rugby and the apparently bullet proof Brian O’Driscoll revealed insecurities in a bid to flog his memoirs to the masses. Not that either really needed to.

Newtownstewart Golf Club haven’t quite gone to the same extremes in trying to shift a few copies of their recently launched book charting 100 years of golf at Baronscourt.

That’s not to say it’s any less interesting that Keano detailing his bust-up with goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel or O’Driscoll telling us how he dealt with the loss of his close friend Barry Twomey or spending a night in a cell of a New York jail.

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In fact ‘A Hundred Years Of Golf At Baronscourt’ is a comprehensive and detailed account of the growth and development of the sport in the Newtownstewart area and surrounding district.

As one would expect of a book of this kind it is a record of facts, figures and the club’s many achievements from the past century. But it’s so much more than that.

It is littered with interesting little nuggets of information about the club, contains interviews with a number of members, past and present, and includes a fair scattering of anecdotes, many of which are of the humorous variety.

“We wanted to bring a smile to people’s faces,” said Jim Mackin, who was joint author of the book along with Canon Harry Trimble.

The Castlederg double act were appointed as joint authors at the club’s annual general meeting on January 2012 and the book has been two years in the making.

It was a time consuming, challenging but ultimately rewarding exercise for the affable pair. And the hard backed copies sold out in a matter of days.

“We were asked would we undertake the job and to be honest I was initially very hesitant to do it,” continued Jim.

“Canon Trimble, along with Jim Emery had done three books on ‘The Red River Valley’ in Castlederg. He had experience and played a very big part in it.

“There was a booklet published by Dr Leslie Lyle some years ago about the history of the club, it was snippets of his own memories. His father was one of the founder members.

“Recent minutes were easily got but we came across all the minutes in our research. I got ones from the late John McBride that covered from the 60s onwards and a member of the club, while undertaking refurbishment work, stumbled across the first two minute books in a cupboard.

“Perhaps uniquely we discovered the minutes of the meeting that was held on the 9th of October 1914 in the Abercorn Arms in Newtownstewart to decide should there be a golf club in Newtownstewart.

“We reproduced those and they are published in the book in their original format.

“They are very interesting indeed. They record that a man named Henry Kiernan, he was manager of the Northern Bank in Newtownstewart and William Ross Henderson, a local businessman, went to the Duke of Abercorn at that time. He was the third Duke and he was asked if he would offer them a piece of suitable land.

“Obviously he agreed and it went from there. In the minutes of that meeting it is underlined that the club should be called Newtownstewart Golf Club and not Baronscourt as the area was perhaps more commonly known.

“One of those in attendance was the Rev Hamilton, he was the rector at the local church and he was appointed the first captain.

“They called a meeting then on the 14th October to form the club. It was decided that annual subscription for gentlemen would be a pound, ladies 10 shillings and for a family it was £1.10 – with no limit on the number! Those who worked on the Estate were free.

“The Duke maintained the grazing rights for sheep and cattle.. Some time in the 1930s cattle rights were removed while sheep continued to graze but they were fenced off from the greens.

“Originally the grass on the fairways was cut three times a year. Nowadays if they weren’t cut three times a week there would be a row!”

Among the many things recorded in the book is the fact that Newtownstewart Golf Club has produced eight professionals including Don Patterson, who was voted teacher of the century by his fellow professionals in Ireland.

Brother Brian coached many celebrities including David Coleman, Jimmy Tarbuck, Val Donegan and Engelbert Humperdinck while overseas professionals Ian Moore and Gavin Robinson went on to establish the PGA in Mexico and have coached a number of sports stars including Manchester United Javier Hernandez.

They have all been interviewed for the book as has John Kelly – now 92 – who during his time recorded 10 holes-in-one and won no fewer than eight Captain’s prizes. He originally caddied at the old Strabane Golf Club on the Urney Road for two players at once. When he started playing golf he had a handicap of 14 and by the end of the first week it was down to six.

Also recorded was the fact the first mower purchased by the club was transported by train to Victoria Bridge while the club once raffled a car for a shilling a ticket. A total of 2000 tickets were in sold.

The joint authors recorded that during the war years the club course was saved from being cropped by the intervention of agent at Baronscourt called Mr Bell and in 1972 the club was destroyed by a terrorist bomb, for which no one ever claimed responsibility.

Those stories are just a snapshot of the many colourful and interesting anecdotes contained in an historical club account with a difference.

‘A Hundred Years Of Golf At Baronscourt’ has been meticulously researched, compiled and produced with a great deal of thought, dedication and passion. The fusion of fact and tale makes for a thoroughly enjoyable, informative and, at times, revealing read. Rest assured this is one club history that won’t end up gathering dust on the shelf!

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The Strabane Chronicle is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 15 Main Street, Strabane, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland, BT82 8AS