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(updated 21 February at 07:22)

Date posted: Sept 3, 2016
Updated: Sept 17, 2016

A rare club donated to Killiney Golf Club by Leonard Owens

The Owens family have a long connection with Killiney Golf Club.

Leonard Owens as an amateur had a distinguished career representing Killiney Golf Club. On turning professional he represented Killiney Golf Club as a touring professional playing on the European tour. On retiring from the tour he was made an honorary member of Killiney Golf Club. He succeeded Christy O’Connor as Professional at Royal Dublin. Leonard retires as the Professional in Royal Dublin on Sept. 30th next and we wish him a long and happy retirement.

His mother Vera, father Jack and brother John were prominent members and his nephews John and Gareth are currently members. His son Lee succeeded Paddy O’Boyle as professional in Killiney Golf Club.

The Cosgrave family were well known Artisan members of the club. Family member George Cosgrave recently gave Leonard a golf club with the legend “Tom Gaffney Killiney Golf Club” engraved on it. Tom Gaffney was the well-loved Club Professional from the 1920’s to 1956 and taught many of our older members.

Profiles of both Tom1 and Leonard2 feature in our Centenary Book, copies of which are in the lobby.

We would like to extend our gratitude to Leonard and George for this kind gift, a piece of our history.

Gordon Horsfield
Captain

 

1Tom Gaffney
(Killiney Golf Club - An illustrated centenary history 1903 - 2003, by Dermot Gillette & John Redmond)

   

Tom Gaffney replaced Holley in 1921. It was an appointment which would lead to a father / son sequence, similar, for instance, to that which other clubs would enjoy in later years, as with the Kinsella family at Skerries and the McCaverys at Lahinch. Meanwhile, the club had launched the first of what was to become a sequence of professional competitions, which though dominated initially by local-man Holley, were greatly appreciated over a period of 25 years, until 1950.

As part of Open Week in July 1925, Holley won a 36 hole professional event by three strokes from Tom Gaffney, with rounds of 74 and 73. And in an 18 hole event a year later, top prize went to the Royal Dublin clubmaker, Fred Smyth after a course-record 69, which stood until the course was extended five years later. Gaffney was five strokes back in third place, while Holley had a disappointing 77.

There was also a member / professional fourball competition which was won by Jack Quinn, in partnership with S. Martin Ashlin, the club president, with the fine score of 10 up.

Gaffney’s performance in those professional events would have been considered quite admirable, given that he was essentially a teacher who made only the odd foray onto the competitive scene. We are told that he had an enormous affection for the course, while his teaching skills created a lasting bond between himself and a grateful membership.

While Gaffney was a gifted teacher, the club encouraged him to maintain a competitive edge, as can be gleaned from the paymebt of a gratuity of £7 for him to play in the Irish Professional Championship at Castlerock, in 1933. And a £5 cheque was paid for the “T. Gaffney Gratuity” in 1928. The quid pro quo, however, was that where club duties were concerned, he was expected to be on the course at 8.00am, though he could “go back for breakfast”. He was also expected to be in attendance at the club for the whole of Saturday, though he could take a half-day on Tuesday.

 

2Leonard Owens
(Killiney Golf Club - An illustrated centenary history 1903 - 2003, by Dermot Gillette & John Redmond)

   

Killiney has been extremely fortunate in the number of outstanding sportspeople who have graced the club’s membership, though it must be stated that most of them had gained prominence, before turning to golf as an expression of enduring competitive instincts. Leonard Owens was a notable exception.

Well-known these days as the highly respected professional at Royal Dublin, he was, in fact, very much identified with Killiney at the time of his finest golfing achievements, more than 30 years ago. That was when he brought distinction to the club both as an amateur and a tournament professional.

Born on June 21st 1949, Leonard developed his golfing skills at Killiney under the watchful eye of professional Danny O’Brien. And a productive method delivered its first significant dividend in 1970, when he captured the Irish Youths Championship at Tullamore, with a four-round aggregate of 286. Two years previously, four putts on the final green had deprived him of the British Youths’ title at Lindrick, where he was forced to settle for a share of second place behind John Cook.

When he turned professional in 1971, Leonard remained at Killiney, as the tournament professional. His renowned business acumen was in evidence at that early stage, insofar as he succeeded in selling 100 shares in himself at £10 each to the club members, thereby financing a challenge on South Africa’s Sunshine Tour in the winter of 1971-72.

His early tournament activities as a professional brought home decidedly heartening comments from no less a figure than Tony Jacklin who as winner of the British Open at Royal Lytham in July 1969 and the US Open at Hazeltine the following June, was one of the game’s most respected players at that time. “There are some good, young players coming up and one of them has really impressed me,” said Jacklin. “He is a young Irishman named Leonard Owens who has a good future ahead of him.”

With a superb exhibition of putting, allied to skilful shot-making from tee to green, Leonard coasted to a 4 and 2 victory over Roddy Carr in the final of the Carrolls Irish Matchplay Championship at Douglas, Cork. A £500 winner’s cheque was the biggest of his burgeoning career.

On October 31st, a letter went out from the secretary of Killiney GC. It read:

“Dear Leonard. Congratulations on your great win. I am certain this is the breakthrough you needed and that it will be the forerunner to many more successes. Yours sincerely, Brendan Jordan.”

This was followed by the conferring of honorary membership of the club, to mark his achievement.