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Halpin tees off in Westport as golf returns


OUT FOR A DRIVE Liam Halpin is pictured teeing off at Westport Golf Club. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Ger Flanagan

TEE-TIMES were as rare as hen’s teeth right across the country yesterday (Monday) and Mayo was no exception.
Golf courses right across the county opened their doors again and welcomed back all those members living inside a 5km radius as the ‘new normal’ began in earnest for golfers.
Under Phase One of the Government’s roadmap for re-opening the country during the Covid-19 pandemic, golf is one of the pilot sports allowed to resume this week, albeit under strict protocols.
Well-known Westport golfer Liam Halpin was one of those who dusted down his golf bag and clubs and took to the fairways again after a lay-off of more than two months.
Halpin, who plays off 1, let rip his driver around the picturesque parklands of Westport Golf Club this week for the first time since the gates were locked back in mid-March.
He is a member of Westport GC since 1979, after being introduced to the game by his brother Niall, who is still his main golfing partner, and also caddies for me on the seniors golfing circuit.
Liam has also been a member of the Irish Seniors team for the last four years, winning 13 caps in the process.
He had almost ruled out any action in his beloved sport for 2020 and has welcomed the news. However, he’s urging his fellow players to respect the conditions of the return to play.
“I’m delighted that golf clubs around the country are re-opening today even though certain restrictions are in place and will remain there for some months to come,” he told The Mayo News. “A few short weeks ago it looked likely that the golfing year could be a complete wash-out, but now it seems like it might be possible to salvage quite a lot of it after all.
“We, as golfers, are very fortunate that golf is a non-contact sport so we can observe social distancing and good hygiene practices while playing, so as to help curb the spread of the virus. It’s critical that golfers and golf club officials alike ensure that the rules for a return to golf, as laid down by the Government and Golfing Unions, are followed.
“Failure to do so could see another golfing lockdown being introduced and that would be much harder to accept than the initial one.”
Some of the guidelines laid down include pre-booked and staggered tee times - 12 minute intervals for two balls, 14 minutes for three; with no competition play and clubhouses to remain closed.
Competitions are due to start back up from June 8 and while golfers will welcome the return to competitive action, Liam Halpin says the biggest benefit to returning to the course will be reaped in their physical and mental health.
Westport GC’s return was also made easier by the pristine condition of the course thanks to the sterling work of greenskeeper Pat Fadden.
“Hopefully over the coming weeks more and more people will be able to get back to their chosen sports,” said Liam. “One lesson that we have learned in recent weeks is just how important sport is to us from both a physical and mental health perspective.
“People really miss the build-up to sporting events, attending them and of course the ‘Apres Match’ aspect as well. In addition, sport is a huge contributor to the local and national economies, both of which need to be kick started asap.”
Golf in the new normal differs greatly from what was known only a few weeks ago and the uncertainty when, and if, it ever returns to the old game is unclear. But these are positive steps on the road to a return to a normality more comfortable with us.
“The war against Covid 19 is far from over but we are beginning to curtail and overcome it,” Halpin added. “We are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel, getting back to golf is good news and God knows we need as much of that as we can get right now.
“I’d like to say a huge thank you to all the health care and front line workers in our community for the amazing work they have done, and continue to do, on our behalf.”

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