Twenty-four Irish golfers crossed the pond to attend a sold-out tournament hosted by The Ireland Funds. Karla Stover, Texas Director and Golf Chairs, Rick Bush and Tommy Gallagher, greeted guests as they arrived at Maridoe Golf Club.
The focus of the tournament was to honor Mike Corboy, National Board Member and one of the original founders of the tournament, for his 20 years of service to The Ireland Funds and to the other founders of the Texas Irish American Cup Challenge. The rain fell throughout the day, but spirits were not dampened. During the rain delays, golfers viewed the GroundZero360 Exhibit and silent auction items which were on display inside the clubhouse. Friendships and memories of past tournaments brought many smiles.
The 20th edition of the Texas Irish American Cup Challenge was perhaps the most unique event to date. With the venue receiving hours of torrential downpour that saw an accumulation total of over four inches of rainfall, the decision was made to forgo play on the newly renovated Maridoe Golf Club. The golf staff rebounded with a plan to hold individual event qualifiers that would lead to 12 American teams earning the honor of facing off against the 12 Irish teams in the traditional shootout format. Individual events included a 6-hole best ball par-3 course and an 18-hole alternate shot putting course that served as the shootout qualifiers. With weather again being a factor all day due to multiple lightning delays, the twelve American teams were decided by the low six teams to complete the par-3 course and the low six teams to complete the putting course. Please note that 7 American teams were tied for the 12th and final shootout spot with the final place being awarded via a scorecard playoff from the par-3 course.
Thankfully, after battling the forecast all day, the golf gods allowed the Shootout to be conducted in perfectly sunny weather beginning at 4:30 p.m. Six teams from each side were eliminated on the first hole of competition; a 128-yard closest to the pin shot played on the lakeside 15th hole. With the pin cut just a few paces over a ridge that bisects the 15th green, a precise wedge shot was required from at least one team member to advance to the second hole of the shootout; a difficult Par-4 with a downhill tee shot followed by an uphill approach with a long iron to a heavily bunkered green. The hole proved to be a challenge with only two par’s being made among the 12 remaining teams. On the Irish side, the teams of Brian Kennedy/David O’Donovan, Will Nelson/Geraldine Doran and Donal Quinn/Alan Kerins advanced with scores of 4, 5 & 5, respectively. They were joined by the teams of Mike Higgins/Grant Switzer, Don and Ryan Hanratty and Andy Welch/Jonathan Buchanan on the American side, who also made scores of 4, 5 & 5, respectively. As the pressure grew, both sides headed to the 3rd playoff hole, which is the 4th hole at Maridoe; a challenging, three-shot Par-5 that requires a forced carry on the tee shot, an accurate lay-up to avoid contouring grass bunkers and a short approach to a narrow green with multiple bunkers that often collect even a well struck shot. After it was all said and done, Grant Switzer & Mike Higgins were the lone American team to make par and were joined by the only Irish team to make par; Donal Quinn & Alan Kerins. The final hole of the shootout was contested on the 15th hole; a par-4 with the lake running the entirety of the left side of the hole. After what many described as a self-proclaimed legendary tee shot, the team of Alan Kerins and Donal Quinn were ultimately left with two putts to win from approximately ten feet. With the pressure at bay, Donal Quinn helped Alan Kerins successfully defend his title from 2016. Congratulations to the team of Quinn and Kerins on their fine play while capturing the 20th edition of the Texas Irish American Cup Challenge!
During dinner Rick Bush extended a warm welcome and thank you to all attendees and introduced donor John McHale. John gave a very heartfelt speech of his longtime friendship with Mike Corboy. Mike was presented an honorary green jacket and was informed of a scholarship fund in his name for children attending Camp Camilla in Northern Ireland. A very special thank you to all who supported and participated in making the 20th Anniversary a success.