The Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI) and the Irish Ladies Golf Union (ILGU) are destined to merge and on Friday, both bodies took the first step towards the goal of having one governing body for golf by issuing a joint statement to say they will sit down to talk.
“Exploratory talks will take place between the ILGU and the GUI with a view to the formation of one governing body for golf on the island of Ireland,” the statement read.
“The ILGU and the GUI currently have an excellent working relationship, and in the past number of years have collaborated successfully on a large number of projects, foremost among which was Ireland’s successful bid to host the 2018 World Amateur Team Championships at Carton House.
“A further statement will be made this autumn, following the conclusion of the golfing season.”
The merger has long been considered inevitable though the first step required formal agreement within both bodies to agree to talk..
My recent column on the merger was published in Global Golf Post's European edition on May 4.
Irish golf will take a giant step towards total unity next week when the Golfing Union of Ireland sits down to discuss a range of matters including the possibility of its seemingly inevitable amalgamation with the Irish Ladies Golf Union.
Just as England and Wales now have just one administrative body for the men’s and women’s games — the Scots will follow suit on October 1 following the recent unanimous vote by the Scottish Golf Union to amalgamate with the Scottish Ladies’ Golfing Association — Ireland is bound to follow.
Agreeing to talk about talks it is the first step and the good news is that this will be on the agenda when the GUI, the oldest golfing union in the world, sits down for a Special General Meeting on May 15.
The Union has recently carried out a wide-ranging “Strategic Review" of its activities and the question of one governing body, or at least, the question of initiating a discussion about a merger, is likely to be up for consideration at the pow-wow.
Anything other than a unanimous agreement to debate the pros and cons of a one-body solution to the demands of the modern game would be a backward step considering how closely together the GUI and the ILGU now work following the creation of the Confederation of Golf in Ireland (CGI) in conjunction with the Professional Golfers’ Association.
And yet, as Sinead Heraty, the Chief Executive of the ILGU so beautifully pointed out when the CGI was formed two years ago, “Ireland is noted for its long engagements before marriage eventually takes place.”
There is no political pressure being exerted on the GUI or the ILGU to merge, which contrasts with the situation in Britain, where the issue of funding was key.
The GUI hasn’t even begun looking at potential cost savings because it hasn’t agreed to formally talk about the possibility of a merger.
However, it appears clear that the golfers of Ireland want this to happen as soon as possible, or last least, that appears to be the result of the recent Strategic Review of Irish clubs carried out by the Union.
Of the 15,000 golfers who responded to a recent survey on different aspects concerning the game, we understand that approximately 75 percent of them would be in favour of having one governing body for the amateur game.
Whatever about what outside agencies might believe to be right, the game of golf globally is under pressure to define itself as an open, accessible and equal sport and that starts by uniting men and women, not keeping them apart.
With Ireland’s women golfers stepping out of the shadow the men in recent years with the likes of Stephanie Meadow, the Maguire twins Lisa and Leona and Ulster star Olivia Mehaffey all excelling on the international stage, Irish golf is only hindered by not having one governing body.
Until the sexes come together under one umbrella, the view that golf is a bastion of inequality will gain credence.
It’s time for the administrators to get on with bringing Irish golf into the 21st century and while it may take until the end of the decade to make it happen, it’s crucial it happens soon.
With Ireland set to battle of Olympic gold next year and with the likes of Rory McIlroy shining a brilliant light on the game in Ireland, the quicker men and women golfers come together, the better for all concerned.