2016 marks the 33rd year of the Maureen O’Hara Golf Classic, making it the longest running Golf Classic in Ireland. Set in the beautiful surrounding of Glengarriff Golf Club overlooking the stunning views of Glengarriff Harbour, the tournament runs for 10 days and attracts around 700 golfers from Ireland and abroad who compete in both the Ladies and Gents team classics, mixed foursomes, a Senior’s Day, a Men’s singles, an adult scramble and the programme also includes a juvenile tournament.

I was with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Maureen O’Hara on October 24th 2015, someone who will be forever associated with Glengarrif and the local Golf Club.

From the late 1970s on Maureen spent her Summers in Glengarriff and subsequently she would make it her permanent home. Around this time she noticed a decline in tourist numbers visiting the area and she wanted to do something about it. After discussing some ideas with a number of people in the area the idea of a golf tournament was born.

This was to be a golf tournament with a difference. Her idea was to stage a tournament of such appeal that it would attract golfers from Ireland and abroad who would play their golf and spend some time in the area. Thus, the format of a team event was conceived. A golf festival would be held over four days every Summer, catering for both ladies and gents. It was called the Maureen O’Hara/Charles Blair Golf Classic.

The first tournament was held in July 1984 and was a remarkable success. Club golfers from all over Ireland, England, Wales, Germany, United States and Canada took part and continue to do so. From the beginning it was a unique venture and stood out among other golf competitions for its excellence. Golfers were attracted by its special character, and not least by the opportunity to meet the charismatic lady herself and have their picture taken with her.

The tournament has continued to thrive since then, with the time-sheet fully booked out and a waiting list each year. Golfers from all over Ireland and abroad play in the competition and organise a family holiday locally. It has proved a valuable input into the local tourist economy.

The funds accumulated from the tournament in the early years provided the initial monies to build the beautifully designed clubhouse, which the members enjoy, today. This money formed a substantial seed capital which enabled the committee to make application for funding from the Government for grant aid from the ‘Bantry Package’, which had been set up after the Whiddy Island disaster, in 1979. As a result of this, the clubhouse was built at no cost to the members. Without Maureen’s involvement this project would never have got off the ground.

Maureen’s presence as Lady President within the golf club since 1986 has raised the profile and status of the golf club, which has always had a vibrant and unique character of inclusion and multiculturalism.

Maureen brought a charm and warmth to all club gatherings, a touch of the exotic and a flavour of Hollywood. She held Honorary Life Membership with the club by virtue of her distinguished iconic position as one of the all-time greats of the motion picture industry.

Maureen was a great ambassador for Ireland all her life, treasuring her Irishness, its language and culture. She has been honoured by several academic and cultural institutions. She was always keen to promote Irish interests at every opportunity, not least those of Glengarriff Golf Club.

Due to her continuing interest, the Maureen O’Hara/Charles Blair Open Golf Classic retains its vibrancy and freshness, after more than 30 years, and the name of Maureen O’Hara is now happily synonymous with Glengarriff internationally.