Golfing Union of Ireland

Ivor McCandless elected GUI President

23 February 2013

Ivor McCandless elected GUI President

Lisburn's Ivor McCandless was elected 65th President of the Golfing Union of Ireland at the Annual General Meeting of Central Council on Friday 22 February.

For details of motions voted upon, click here.

For details of the Committees for the forthcoming year following the elections at Central Council, click here.

Ivor McCandless, 65th President of the Golfing Union of Ireland

Life has some peculiar twists of fate, such as how Ivor McCandless discovered golf. Or, maybe, how golf discovered him? A newly arrived employee of a company in Belfast, Ivor – whose sporting endeavours up to then involved playing tennis and then table tennis in the winter months to a decent churches league standard – was put on the spot by his new boss, Herbert Kirk, who just happened to be the captain of Belvoir Park Golf Club at the time.

“Have you ever played golf?” enquired Kirk of the newcomer.

“No,” replied McCandless.

“Have you ever thought about playing golf?”

“No,” answered McCandless.

“Would you like to try?”

The upshot was that McCandless was directed towards Billy Robertson in the pro shop at Belvoir Park. Never a man to miss the chance of a sale, the pro talked McCandless into purchasing a small set of clubs and set the newcomer on his way.

It was to prove a game changing moment in time for McCandless, who was bitten by the golfing bug straight away. It was also to prove an inspiring and valuable new addition to the Golfing Union of Ireland’s membership, as McCandless became a trusted administrator firstly at club level and then at Branch and Council level.

A native of Dromore, Co Down, McCandless’s first golf club was Banbridge where Mervyn Jameson, a long-standing Ulster interprovincial player, was an influence. McCandless, at that time, could be found many an evening hitting balls on the rugby pitch near his home as he worked on his game and, after marrying Audrey in 1966, he moved to Lisburn where he joined the golf club and where he has remained a member ever since.

As a player, Ivor loved nothing better than competing on inter-club teams, including the Jimmy Bruen Shield and the Ulster Cup. His best run on a club team came in the Ulster Cup –a coveted competition – where the memory of Ballymena beating them in the semi-final remains strong in the memory bank.

It was as an administrator that McCandless left an indelible mark on the Lisburn club: he served as treasurer for 12 years, served as vice-captain in 1987 and enjoyed a wonderful year as club captain in 1988. It was around this time that he joined the Ulster Branch (where he would be a valued member for over 20 years until leaving in November ’11 to become president-elect of the Union) and served on various committees, among them the handicap committee, and held positions up to that of Branch Chairman. He joined the GUI Council in 2000.

“I enjoyed being out and about, going to matches. The Pierce Purcell. The Jimmy Bruen. Senior Cup . . . enjoyed them all. I can honestly say I enjoyed watching the Pierce Purcell as much as the Senior Cup or the Barton Shield, it’s the heartbeat of club golf.”

McCandless, it could be said, was at the coalface during a period of change which saw the development of the much-vaunted Greenmount Academy (home to the Ulster Branch) and, also, the emergence of a rich vein of golfing talent in Ulster which started with Darren Clarke’s emergence and fed on to produce Major champions in Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and, of course, Clarke himself.

“One of the highlights of my time on the (Ulster) Branch was the development of Greenmount and the meetings we had with John Fay, who is the director of the college. To see the development first of all of the greens and the various types of grasses (used) and the construction of the three academy holes under the guidance of David Jones and the driving bays. It was great to watch and it is now great to see what has happened there, young people from all over Ireland using the facilities there.”

McCandless has assumed the Presidency of the GUI at a time when golf clubs all over the island are fighting to retain membership levels. “I’m of a mind that a lot of the people who have left clubs, have not left golf. They’re still playing golf. They’re at the end of the game where they play maybe 10 or 12 or 20 times a year. If we could find a way to harness them, or bring them back into the fold again . . . . find some way of bringing those people back into club life again, it would be great.”

He points to the fact that the branches have frozen the GUI levy for three years as part of their attempts to ease the financial burden on golfers. However, the new President also makes the salient observation that those people who are joining clubs are now playing more golf and ensuring they get value for their membership.

Of the price of membership, McCandless cites the cost of annual membership at his own club in Lisburn, which is £860 for the full year. Against that, he cites the example of a friend to paid £125 to go to an Andrea Bocelli concert in Belfast. “It’s still relatively inexpensive for a full year,” he says of the membership cost, especially for those who make the most of playing as often as they can.

In his role as President of the GUI, McCandless will have a busy travelling schedule in 2013 which involves attending all four of golf’s Major championships as well as many amateur championships in Ireland and abroad. One event that holds great appeal to the President is the Walker Cup, which takes place at The National Links on Long Island, New York, in September. “I’d like to think Ireland will have representatives on the team. I went to Aberdeeen in 20111 and it was great to see the two Irish players – Alan Dunbar and Paul Cutler – play so well and make such valuable contributions to the win. Hopefully, we can repeat that.”

Ivor is the golfer in the McCandless household, although his wife, Audrey, is a keen spectator at championships and inter-club matches whilst their son, Christopher, is one of Ireland’s top hockey coaches and looked after the Irish Under 18 team for a number of years.

As for the father? Everyone will concede that his loss to tennis and table tennis was very much golf’s gain.