Having come virtually to the end of my regional visits, my final sojourn saw me on an early morning flight to Belfast for the visit to our colleagues in Northern Ireland, at Massereene GC. The clubhouse at Massereene has a wonderfully modern design with superb views over Lough Neagh. The meeting itself was eventful, in that as their planned speaker had dropped out at the eleventh hour I became the only presenter. Fortunately, my attempts seemed to be well received and there was then a very enthusiastic open forum, which I enjoyed very much. I have to say that, whilst I have been privileged to have been served excellent food wherever I have been, the lunch at Massereene GC was superb. My visit was all too short and I was soon back on the early evening flight to Birmingham.
The Northern Ireland region, which is not large in number and as an ‘outpost’ could to easily be forgotten, is a vibrant and valued part of the GCMA and currently provides, from amongst their number, Gary Steele – the GCMA Finance Director. Gary has been a conscientious, long-term member of the GCMA and was until recently the Northern Ireland Regional Manager. He has stepped down and been replaced by Jim Cullen, whom I had the pleasure of meeting, who again is a committed GCMA member and will, I am certain, become an excellent Regional Manager. I wish him well, as I do Gary who is about to retire from his post as Manager at Clandeboye GC.
At this point, I must apologise to our Scottish colleagues because I was unable to attend their meeting at Blairgowrie GC in late September due to flight times and a clash of dates. I should also like to pay tribute to all regions for their commitment to the changes within the GCMA, which I am convinced will serve all members well for many years to come.
I consider myself very fortunate to have been National Captain in a ‘Conference’ year – especially this year. You will have seen reports online and elsewhere in this magazine about what I consider to have been a very successful event – congratulations to all those who worked so hard in making it a success. Obviously it is very easy, as a body, to be self-congratulatory but the reaction of those present (delegates, exhibitors and presenters) to the venue and the event as a whole, ‘right from the off’, was a pleasure to witness. People were actually walking around with smiles on their faces; in short there was a ‘buzz’ about the place. In addition, having spoken with many exhibitors, I am delighted to be able to say that they were all happy with their ‘pitch’ and the access they were able to gain to delegates –they seemed to think it was value for money. This is very important as there had been some adverse comments about the previous venue.
Being a sports fanatic, I made sure I went on the tour of the FA Centre, which is wonderful and with a great deal of luck might once again provide England (apologies to my Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh colleagues) with a team to bring some success. On my landing in the hotel there is a photograph of the 1966 team – let’s hope this venue can help provide a similar group for future tournaments.
Significantly, many of the seasoned Conference goers and ‘freshmen’ alike felt that the format and content (with the odd exception) offered a variety of relevant topics, in which we all have an interest. This was evident to me when following the excellent Conference Dinner on the Monday night, which didn’t break up until 11.30 pm, I found myself still in the bar at 2.00am talking to fellow members, without having noticed time passing – I realised that to stay up any later was not a good idea but I left many members still there talking over ‘hot topics’. The keynote speakers and other presenters had been carefully chosen to provide a variety of interest for delegates, but of particular interest to me and, judging by the number present, many others, was the breakout session by Paul Stewart (KPMG) about the VAT reclaim. How anyone can make VAT interesting is beyond me, but he did and provided some useful information!
Overall, the Conference made me proud to be a member of the GCMA and I repeat how fortunate I am to have been Captain this year.
Finally, as this is the last report before Christmas and I should like wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Let’s all hope for a bright future within the GCMA and golf.