The first full board of the new Golf Ireland was formally ratified on Saturday as the governing body for the sport held its first AGM.

The Board is a mix of those from within the regional structure and from outside the sport. It is 46% female in composition and includes Sarah O’Connor, Head of Sport at Wilson Hartnell Public Relations and Vinny Hammond, Head of Performance Analytics and Innovation at the Irish Rugby Football Union.

Over 900 were in attendance virtually and approved the new incoming board, taking over from the transition board that had been in place since the amalgamation of the GUI and the ILGU.

John White (Co. Armagh) takes on the honour of being the first President of Golf Ireland, a post he will hold for 2021 before Kay O’Loughlin (Castlerea) assumes the office for 2022.

Paul Haran, a former Secretary-General of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, with considerable experience in both the public and private sectors takes on the role of Chairperson, adding to the public service experience that comes from Mark Kennelly being in place as CEO of the organisation.

“I would like to thank Tim O’Connor and the Transition Board for their great work in bringing Golf Ireland to where it is today, a modern and inclusive governing body,” said Haran.

“I am both honoured and excited to be appointed as Chairperson to the Board of Golf Ireland and I look forward to working closely with my fellow directors over the coming years to build on the solid foundations set down by the Irish Ladies Golf Union and the Golfing Union of Ireland over the last 130 years.”

“We have a diverse range of relevant skill sets on the board which will help us in developing and implementing an inclusive strategic vision for the game of golf across Ireland.”

Messages of support were received from the Office of the Taoiseach, Sport Ireland, Sport NI and others.

“I congratulate all those who have been involved in the creation of this new organisation. Golf is a very important and valued part of our sporting world and provides wonderful joy and recreation to so many,” said Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

“The R&A is committed to ensuring that golf is thriving 50 years from now, but to achieve this long-term vision, we need to work collaboratively with national associations around the world,” added R&A CEO Martin Slumbers.

“Of course, Golf Ireland has a vital role to play within Ireland, but it also has an important role to play beyond its shores in terms of shaping our sport globally.”

The Board is a mix of those from within the regional structure and from outside the sport. It is 46% female in composition and includes Sarah O’Connor, Head of Sport at Wilson Hartnell Public Relations and Vinny Hammond, Head of Performance Analytics and Innovation at the Irish Rugby Football Union.

The full Board together with a brief biography of each, supplied by Golf Ireland is as follows:

John White, President

John is a member of Co. Armagh GC and has served on numerous committees, is a past captain and president and is currently a trustee of the club. He enjoys both the playing and administrative aspects of golf and has a keen interest in rules – having completed the Level 3 Rules Exam at St Andrew’s. Serving as a GUI Ulster Branch volunteer for over 20 years, John became Ulster Chairman in 2017. He has also acted as Ireland team manager on several occasions including a victorious European Nations (2016) and two Home International winning teams (2015 & 2017).

Kay O’Loughlin, President-Elect

Kay has represented her club Castlerea GC on many fora within the ILGU during a distinguished career as a volunteer. This includes her membership of the ILGU Connacht District Committee, as Chair of the ILGU Connacht District Handicapping Committee, member of the GUI/ILGU Joint World Handicapping Committee and member of the ILGU National Course Rating Committee.

Paul Haran, Chairperson

Paul served as Secretary-General of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, retiring in 2004 after a public sector career of almost 30 years. Since then he has been a Director and board member of many companies and bodies including Glanbia, National Broadband Ireland, the Irish Heritage Trust and Edward Dillon which he chairs. He served as Chairperson of the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School and as the Vice-President and Principal of UCD’s Business and Law schools.

Jane Joyce, Director

Jane is an experienced golf administrator, most recently as the ILGU Connacht District Secretary and also at club level with Gort GC. Trained in marketing and public relations, her primary experience is at a voluntary level having participated in the initial Golf Ireland Discussion Group on volunteerism.

Gerri Houlihan, Director

Gerri has been Chairperson of Headfort GC having been a member there for over 25 years and serving in various committee roles. By profession she was a Medical Scientist, working for 35 years in various Dublin hospitals. She is retired since 2010, having been the Chief Medical Scientist of the Endocrine Laboratory in the Mater Hospital.

Barry Lynch, Director

Barry has been a member of Raffeen Creek since its founding in 1989 and has held many voluntary positions within the club. He also has had extensive involvement with the GUI, both at provincial and national level in the areas of handicapping, course rating, rules and championships.

Peter Greene, Director

Peter is a chartered accountant and statutory auditor with 30 years professional experience in the accountancy profession and voluntary sector, with specific expertise in corporate governance. Peter is also a member of Holywood GC and has undertaken a variety of volunteer roles within the club.

Pauline Bailie, Director

Pauline was a member of the Transition Board of Golf Ireland, chairing the Volunteering Sub Committee. She was also a member of the most recent ILGU Board, chairing the Handicapping and Course Rating Committee. Prior to this, she was involved in golf administration in her club Belvoir Park. Pauline’s professional career was in the Northern Ireland Civil Service where she has worked for over 35 years.

Teresa Byrne, Director

Teresa is a professional accountant working in the pharmaceutical industry for a number of years. She was previously a member of the ILGU Board as Finance Director until 2019 and was heavily involved in the Golf Ireland Discussion Group during this time. She is also involved in volunteering at her local club New Ross.

Vinny Hammond, Director

Vinny’s professional background is in high-performance sport where he works as the Head of Analytics and Innovation for the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), primarily working with the senior national team. He also sits on their High-Performance Strategy Committee. He is a member of Carton House GC.

Martin Hynes, Director

Martin has experience in golf administration at both club and provincial level. He has been involved in the management of Athenry Golf Club and has also been a member of the GUI Connacht Branch, sitting on their Championship Committee. Martin works as a lecturer in Galway Mayo Institute of Technology, with a research background in high-performance sport.

Sarah O’Connor, Director

Sarah is a qualified solicitor who has spent her career in the sports industry. Firstly as CEO of the Federation of Irish Sport until 2015 and more recently as Company Director and Head of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship at Wilson Hartnell. She also has volunteer experience as Chairperson of Boardmatch Ireland and as a member of Irish Sailing’s Olympic Sailing Group. She is a member of Milltown GC.

John Power, Director

John was a member of the Transition Board of Golf Ireland, having previously been involved in the Discussion Group to form the new organisation and as a member of the GUI board. He has also been involved as a volunteer with his own club Portmarnock GC. Professionally, John is Chartered Engineer and was Director-General of Engineers Ireland until 2015.


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