Irish golf heralded the breaking of a new dawn on Saturday when a proposal by the ILGU and the GUI to form one governing body for men and women — Golf Ireland — was approved overwhelmingly.
Separate meetings were held with 100 per cent of the clubs voting in favour of the proposal at the ILGU AGM at the Red Cow Moran Hotel in Dublin as 94 per cent of men's clubs gave the proposal the thumbs up at the GUI's EGM at Knightsbrook Hotel in Trim, Co Meath.
The GUI needed a two thirds majority in favour while the ILGU needed 75 percent approval.
That just six per cent of the men's vote was against is a sign that this was a much-desired change.
And while it's the end of an era for the GUI and the ILGU as the transition phase now begins, the overwhelming feeling is that Irish golf will be in a stronger position when it speaks with just one voice from 1 January 2021.
Clodagh Hopkins, Chairman of the Board of the Irish Ladies Golf Union and Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh, Chairman of the Board of the Golfing Union of Ireland, issued a joint statement that read:
“We are delighted with the outcome of the votes at our respective meetings and thank everyone who has given this proposal their support.
“Bringing two strong organisations, the ILGU and GUI together to create a stronger, more influential organisation, Golf Ireland, will not only enhance golf in Ireland but will enhance Irish golf worldwide.
"The result today indicates that members of both Unions are in support of creating a new organisation which will be built around promoting core principles of equality, diversity, inclusion and excellence.
“The result today is a validation of the work put in by everyone involved. The input which has been received from our member clubs, our staff and volunteers, and everyone else who has in some way contributed to the final proposal should be recognised.
"The result of their efforts will be a new dynamic organisation, charged with the promotion of the game of golf, with a commitment to excellence and inclusivity.”
In the case of the GUI, postal voting was permitted for the first time and 292 of the Union’s 395 clubs availed of this facility.
A further 34 clubs attended and voted at the meeting while 269 clubs attended the ILGU AGM to cast their vote.
The result of both votes is the outcome of a three-year process of discussion and consultation between the two Unions, internally with their respective clubs and regional bodies, and externally with key national and international stakeholders.
It will mean the game of golf in Ireland will now, for the first time, have an all-inclusive governing body.
Throughout the consultation period, the benefits of this have been acknowledged in terms of attracting funding and commercial partners, as well as providing a boost for the image of the game.
Once established, clubs will only have to deal with one body when it comes to handicapping, inter-club events, club supports and game development.
A Transition Period will immediately commence, with the intention for this to culminate with the first AGM and regional meetings of Golf Ireland happening in the final quarter of 2020, paving the way for the organisation to 'go live' on 1 January 2021.
The transitions period will involve the organisation taking shape through the creation of a regional and national structure and the drawing up of rules and processes to underpin the activities of the organisation, all overseen by a CEO who will be appointed early in the Transition Period and who will work with a Transitions Team.
The GUI and ILGU will continue to operate through the Transition Period with the transfer of functions and staff to Golf Ireland before the ‘go live’ date for the new organisation.
The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD, and Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin TD, joined Sport Ireland in welcoming the outcome of today’s Irish Ladies Golf Union (ILGU) and Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI) votes to form Golf Ireland, which will oversee the administration, development and promotion of golf at an all-island level.
Minister Ross said: “I welcome the ratification of the GUI and ILGU’s proposal to form a single Governing Body for golf on the island of Ireland. The formation of a single body with responsibility for both men’s and women’s golf is an important and positive step for Irish golf and means that Ireland is now in keeping with international practice. I wish the GUI and the ILGU every success in their work ahead as they begin the transition to Golf Ireland.”
Minister Griffin added: “I am delighted to note the outcome of today’s vote on the proposal for the formation of Golf Ireland. This is a very welcome development for golf in Ireland, with one governing body to promote and lead golf for all Irish golfers into the future. I commend the GUI and the ILGU in bringing forward the proposal and I wish them well as they work towards the establishment of Golf Ireland.”
Sport Ireland Chief Executive, John Treacy, commented: “Sport Ireland welcomes the decision of the ILGU and GUI membership to create a new governing body for the sport of golf here in Ireland. The establishment of Golf Ireland will have a positive impact on the development and promotion of the sport on the island of Ireland.
“The unified strategy of the new dynamic organisation will improve the supports available to Golf Ireland members and clubs, increase efficiency and assist the promotion of golf as a healthy, open and inclusive sport for all ages. On behalf of Sport Ireland I would like to congratulate both the ILGU and GUI on the hard work put in getting to this point and we look forward to working with Golf Ireland into the future.”