In his weekly Limerick Leader column, Ivan Morris pays tribute to the Roberts family in Castletroy Golf Club.
When the founding of Castletroy Golf Club was mooted in 1936, the man who chaired the exploratory meetings and then became the Club’s first President from its inception to 1942 was Malcolm Shaw, son of Sir Alex who had founded Limerick, Lahinch and Kilkee Golf Clubs almost 50-years earlier.
Malcolm not only took a great interest in the laying out of the new golf course but he also gave his hands-on attention to his pet projects, drainage and shrubbery.
He was also the biggest, single investor in the project with a donation of £500 – a considerable sum at the time.
Prominent Limerick members, Dr. Michael Roberts, Frank O’Mahony and Tom Corboy were extremely helpful to the small committee set up to establish golf at Castletroy and Mr. Shaw requested that one of them be appointed the first captain.
“Also, part of the ‘deal’ was the ‘lending’ of Limerick GC’s professional, Willie Daly to supervise the site clearing before the holes could be laid out by Lionel Hewson.
This support was freely given despite the Ballyclough Club being in dire need of new members itself.
Dr. Michael Roberts, who had a keen appreciation of course architecture and golfing talent, became the inaugural captain at Castletroy in 1937 and he held the post for 3-years.
“His energy and drive were vital in bedding down the course. He retained membership in both clubs (as well as at Lahinch and Adare Manor) throughout his life.
In 1940, he married one of Ireland’s best women golfers during the 1930s, Eithne Pentony. Before her death in 1987, Eithne jotted down some delightful recollections of her eventful golf career.
“I had a fairytale life due entirely to the game of golf, which I managed to play well at the right time. I started the game when I was 8-years old, at Sutton GC where I played with my mother. The following year, there was a mixed foursomes competition for youngsters playing with adults and my father and I were lucky enough to win.
“When I was 16, the club made me a full member to give me the experience of playing in competitions. I joined Hermitage in 1930 when I was a 9-handicapper and entered for the Irish Close Championship at Portmarnock but was beaten in the second round.
“The following year, my handicap was down to five and to everyone’s surprise, I won! The final was played at Rosses Point on October 1st and the equinoctial gales raged. Tents were blown down and holding up an umbrella impossible but the conditions seemed to suit me.
“In 1932, I was thrilled to be selected to play for the Great Britain and Ireland team against France at Saint Germaine. Mme. Vagliano was captain of the French team and it is after her that the Vagliano Trophy is named. I lost my Irish title at Ballybunion but the following year, 1933, before we traveled to Royal County Down, I received a letter from the LGU asking if I would be available to tour South Africa in September.
“There was only one way of making sure of selection. I concentrated very hard and managed to play well enough to win the championship again.
It was my best year. Soon, I had an invitation from Mr. Ludwig Nobel to be his guest in Sweden for two weeks. Again, I managed to reach the final of the Swedish Championship but was beaten by a German girl.
“Some of the competitors said they were going to Denmark. I was asked to join them and had the satisfaction of beating the same German girl in the final of the Danish Championship in Copenhagen.
“I was hardly home when I set sail to South Africa, which was a wonderful experience - three weeks by boat from London, including a stop-off for a day at St. Helena where we played golf and had tea with the Governor. The tour lasted two months and I stayed on for an extra month with friends.
“The following year, I reached the semi-final of the British Championship at Porthcawl, but lost to the eventual winner, Mrs. Holm.
“After winning the Senior Cup with Hermitage in 1935 and 1936, I got to the semi-finals of the Irish Championship at Ballybunion in 1936. Later that year, I developed tuberculosis.
“I thought it was the end of the world, especially as I had just met the one and only Mick Roberts. By the grace of God and the loving care and attention of my mother, I recovered and was well enough to play on the Irish team again in 1939. Then war and marriage to my dear husband of 47 happy years intervened.
Michael and Eithne had three daughters and a son. Their only son, Michael, became quite a golfer in his own right winning one Irish senior cup and three Irish junior cup medals with Limerick (1975-1980) before transferring his administrative attentions to Castletroy, where he became captain for the Club’s 50th anniversary year.
Words of the Wise
Today the common man plays more golf then the rich man yet the lens we look through is that of a rich, minority sport – Nick Bradley.