Players tee-off on marathon 117 golf round to rebuild fire hit Kenmare clubhouse

Tomas MacGearailt, Sean Murphy, Berttie McSwiney and Padraig O'Shea heading for the first tee in the Kenmare Golf Club fundraising Golf Marathon at Kenmare Golf Club on Friday. Picture: Michelle Cooper Galvin

A marathon 117 holes - one for every year of its history - kicked off at dawn on Friday in an all-out push to rebuild the unique Kenmare Golf clubhouse which was gutted by fire just 12 days ago.

The golf course founded in 1903 did not get its clubhouse until the 1930s and the picket white wood building had begun life as a cricket pavilion in India during the days of the Victorian Empire.

At the edge of town, it has been a landmark building ever since.

All but destroyed in the fire which broke out in the early hours in the empty building, the oldest section was worst damaged, along with photographs and a famous set of cartoons.

Gardai said their examination indicated nothing suspicious, and may possibly have been due to an electrical fault, possibly in the attic area.

The fire shocked the community in Kenmare but everyone determined almost at once to help the old cricket style pavilion “rise from the ashes”, organisers said yesterday.

Some 14 participants, male and female, began their marathon effort at 5.05am on Friday on the first tee and would continue on until 9pm at least, organiser Seamus MacGearailt said.

Within days of pledging to take on the challenge, the 14 players had gathered€20,000 in pledges, Mr MacGearailt said.

“The idea is to rebuild it. People love the unique building and want to see it rebuilt as near as practical,” he said.

The inspiration for the marathon round was local man Jim Crushell, who along with his friend, Killarney jeweller John O’Shea, took on a marathon in 1961 for a dare and the prospect of a half a crown.

“There was a trend that time for golf marathons and Packie Hanley of Henry Street dared us. We took on the dare and played 126 holes,” Jim Crushell said as he stood talking with local man Senator Mark Daly, who was helping out incoming Lady club president, Patsy Myles.

Back in 1961 the marathon began at 7.30am and headlights were turned on cars to shine a light on the course to allow them finish, they recalled.

They each got their half-crown from Packie Hanley of “Packie’s”, the famous restaurant founded by chef and food writer Maura Foley.

Meanwhile the Gofundme.com drive “Rebuild Kenmare Golf Club” set up by the club has now raised €55,777, over half its goal.

“There is a lot of goodwill towards the golf club and those living abroad are able to donate through the Gofundme drive,” local Fine Gael councillor and member, Patrick Connor-Scarteen, said.

Mr Connor-Scarteen is incoming mayor of Kerry for 2020/2021.

The club had significant numbers of outside members with second homes in the area and there was huge support from them, he said.

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