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Thursday: Ballyliffin, the Jim Byrne Cup, and Malin Head

Jon Kiger


On Thursday we checked out of the Bishops Gate Hotel in Derry and boarded our bus to Ballyliffin in County Donegal, back in the  "South" of Ireland. On the docket for the day was a face off against the Irish superintendents on Ballyliffin's Old Course as part of the 10th playing of the TurfNet Emerald Challenge/Jim Byrne Cup. 


The Old Course at Ballyliffin Golf Club.

The Irish brought 16 of their best golfers and our group had a total of 20 players in the event. It was determined that since four TurfNet players had to play together two would play representing Ireland to even out the teams. After a coin flip, it was determined that Matt and Cheryl Crowther would play representing Ireland. That was only fitting given Cheryl's Irish heritage which includes relatives from County Clare. 


Paul Rauker, JJ Young (formerly of Tralee), Ken Flisek, and Fintan Brennan from Portmarnock Links ready to face off in the TurfNet Emerald Challenge


Ray Brennan and Trevor Dargan from Ireland with Tripp Trotter and Jorge Croda

We started out with cold winds but the weather eventually warmed and calmed down a bit. Andy Robertson and his crew had the course in great shape, just as it was during the 2018 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in July. Scoring for the event was based on the Stableford system. Ireland eked out a win by a score of 207 points to 199. 


The winning Irish team (yes that’s Matt and Cheryl Crowther with them - Irish for the day!)

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All players in the 10th TurfNet Emerald Challenge Jim Byrne Cup after the round at Ballyliffin.

JJ Young is the recently retired head greenkeeper from Tralee Golf Course in County Kerry... the first course we played on our first trip to Ireland in 2009. JJ had arranged for an additional trophy in honor of the event being named for Jim Byrne. This trophy was made out of thousands years old bogwood and was a fitting tribute to a special man. 


JJ Young explains the making of the special trophy in honor of Jim Byrne, long considered the father of professional greenkeeping in Ireland.


Ballyliffin Golf Club was a great host for the TurfNet Emerald Challenge/Jim Byrne Cup

The non-golfers were able to tour the nearby Doagh Famine Village and Malin Head - the northernmost point in Ireland, before picking us up for the ride to Rosapenna. 


Non-golfers visited Malin Head - the Northern-most point in Ireland - Simon our driver for the day on far right.

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View from Malin Head - Ireland’s northernmost point.

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During World War II, the white rocks at Malin Head alerted German pilots that they were over neutral Ireland.

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Famine era thatched roof home.


Breathtaking scenery for the non-golfers that day.


Learning about poitin (illegal malted barley pot still whiskey) on the Doagh Famine Village Tour

After approximately an hour and a half on the bus, we arrived at the Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Resort – also in Donegal and our home for the evening. We had a delicious meal in the hotel restaurant, courtesy of Paul Raucker and Foley United. An excellent piano player provided post dinner entertainment.


Josh Webber and Jake Coldiron on the bus.


The Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Links in Co.Donegal.

We had a fairly tame and early evening in anticipation of our final round of golf the next day at the resort’s Sandy Hills Course.



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