PRIDE AND TIPPERARY are words that always seem to fit easily together. And so it was in Tipperary Golf Club on Thursday night last when the club’s pride in its own golfing hero, Arthur Pierse, was clearly palpable. And in return, Tipperary’s greatest golfing ambassador ever, was proud to wear on his sleeve the highest regard he has for his home club.
The occasion was the unveiling of an impressive new trophy cabinet displaying just some of the memorabilia attached to Arthur Pierse’s glittering career. A golfing journey which has taken him all over the world and which has seen him excel at the very highest levels nationally and internationally in amateur golf from the 1970s right up to the present day.
A packed clubhouse was indicative of the esteem in which the Pierse family are held in Tipperary Town and way beyond. Followers and fans came from all corners to be there to acknowledge the greatness that the local boy has brought to one of Ireland’s oldest golf clubs. The many blazers present represented the officialdom of the Golfing Union of Ireland, at national and Munster branch level and many clubs throughout County Tipperary too, but the ordinary golf club members and indeed some who never hit a wedge in their lives were there also. All were in attendance to acknowledge a remarkable career and a commendable gesture by Arthur Pierse to the 116 year-old golf club.
Full marks to the host club for such a well organised event which was greatly enjoyed. Club captain Joe Considine’s efforts in preparation for the event were meticulous leaving no stone unturned. The format of broadcaster and golf author Shane O’Donoghue presenting a “Sporting This Is Your Life” type interview to an accompanying slideshow worked perfectly. Arthur Pierse doesn’t just walk the walk, he can talk the talk too. And he did, regaling story after story in his own way, of feats on and off the course over the years, one or two humorously involving twin brother Gerry.
Other little gems of stories and anecdotes included a matchplay tussle with the legendary Joe Carr in the West of Ireland in 1972 which Arthur won; meeting icons Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus when competing in the ‘famous’ British Open at Turnberry in 1977; being selected for Walker Cup and Eisenhower Trophy teams; leading the Carrolls Irish Open at Woodbrook in 1975 when shooting seven birdies, one par and one bogey on the front nine on Day One, only to be denied his hour of glory on TV by the death of then President Eamonn De Valera; a “tearfully funny” round in matchplay with Colin Montgomerie in 1984; and an unforgettable and unforgiveable day at Royal Porthcawl at the British Amateur Open Championships in 1980.
At the beginning of the evening Liam Martin, chairman of the Munster branch, thanked Arthur for his contribution to Irish golf at representative and international level (capped 99 times for Ireland between 1976 and 1988). He said he marvelled at the level Arthur Pierse had risen to in his career considering that back in the days when Arthur was developing in golf few if any opportunities existed for bringing on young players. “It was a credit to Tipperary Golf Club”, he said, “that Arthur reached the level he had risen to in the game.” Liam added that Arthur’s “achievements in a phenomenal career were astounding.”
The Munster GUI chairman went on to praise Arthur’s role as a mentor to many young men and women and that the game of golf was grateful to him for taking on that role in helping young people become better golfers.
Pat Murray and John O’Donoghue also came in for special mention from Liam Martin for their contributions to Tipperary GC.
Club captain Joe Considine drove the ball straight down the middle all night in his role as MC, and outlined how the Pierse family has become synonymous over many years with Tipperary Golf Club. Arthur’s late father Gerry was captain in 1960 and a Captain’s Prize winner three times; Arthur’s twin brother Gerry won the Captain’s Prize on four occasions, John, another brother was successful in the Captain’s Prize in 1976; and yet another brother, Pat, triumphed in the Captain’s Prize in 1977.. So far the Captain’s Prize has eluded Arthur and another brother, Morgan. Incidentally Arthur Pierse served as club captain in 1990.
Captain Joe also informed the audience, via the slideshow, of testimonials to Arthur Pierse from the likes of JB Carr, Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, Philip Parkin and others, some remarking on the perfect swing that Pierse had in his golf game. This point was developed later in the evening by the man himself stating how in matchplay golf his very dependable swing would always find him the fairway and nearly always the green on the second shot. In his own words, modestly understating of course, “I drove the ball better than most.”
When Arthur could get a hold of the microphone between Joe and Shane, the stories kept coming one after another. Reminiscences of childhood days at Rathanny and a business endeavour “finding” and selling golf balls; of a year spent “reading” at Trinity College and how he managed to get his handicap down from 14 to scratch; competing in the USA in both Senior Professional and Amateur Opens, and doing remarkably well; and perhaps, one of the proudest days, among a plethora of proud days, winning the British Seniors Amateur Open Championship in 2007 at the age of 56.
But if it was great golf on the fairways of the world that made this guy stand out, it was something else off the course that defined him even more, a generosity to spread his achievements to the contribution made by others at Tipperary Golf Club in nurturing his talent.
Arthur dedicated so much to the efforts of his wife Margaret, his mother Catherine present on the night and in great form at the age of 92 (not to forget Mona Vaughan, also reporting for duty at 97), also his late father Gerry, Blaise Hannigan from Tramore who was his long-time caddy, the “Tipperary crew” who always turned up to support him in his competitive days and to whom he always turned to for that support - the late John Butler, PD Ryan, Stephen Delaney, John Joe McCormack, Paddy McMahon - guys who meant everything. People who went through his life in golf were far more important to him than any trophies.
Another match-winning shot played on the night and mentioned by Arthur - the special place Tipperary Golf Club has in Irish sporting history, Having himself won the North, East and West titles, the grand slam of national amateur crowns was completed with Pat Murray winning the South at Lahinch in 2012. What an amazing record for any golf club.
Finally towards the end of the evening the curtain came apart to reveal the brand new trophy cabinet. Arthur’s mother Catherine and Lady Captain Sheila Lowry performing the honours to officially launch a beautiful treasure trove (towards which the Meskell family contributed very generously).
So now stands in Tipperary Golf Club magnificent memorabilia in all its glory, a fitting testament to the bond between a golfer and his club. During the course of the evening we heard some great golf stories but in years to come the cabinet will be a catalyst to the telling and re-telling of many many more. Whenever golfers gather at this particular 19th hole, the remarkable golfing career of Tipperary’s Arthur Pierse will be recalled in detail. Leaving the Golf Club on Thursday night last one couldn’t but help feeling those words fitting very comfortably together yet again, Pride and Tipperary.