Golf got me back on my feet

​​​When a road traffic accident in the summer of '98 left Jim Mooney with a broken ankle, the 44-year-old had to abandon his ambitions as a Gaelic football referee. Unable to run as a result of his injuries, golf would prove to be his sporting saviour.

  • 07 December 2017

Picture: GUI referee Jim Mooney (left) officiating in the final of the 2017 AIG Irish Close - Cashman Photography

Tuesday 5th December marks International Day of the Volunteer. Golf in Ireland would not thrive without the dedication and committment of volunteers across the island who give of their time freely to grow, develop and bring to life the sport that we all love. The Golfing Union of Ireland thanks all those that volunteer in golf and ​to mark the occasion, each day this week we will take a look at some volunteers that work with their club and the GUI.

As a walking sport, golf was a perfect fit for Mooney.

"I took up golf to get exercise," he recalls.

Gaelic football had been his first love. A native of Kells, Co Meath work took him west. Stationed with An Garda Siochana at Boyle, he joined the GAA club in Geevagh, Co Sligo and went on to play championship football with his adopted county in the 1980s.

Refereeing proved a natural progression once his own playing days were over. And just as he was rising through the ranks as a referee, his career in black came to a premature end. The accident caused severe damage to his ankle although he was lucky to survive a crash in which he had been thrown off a Garda motorbike.

Four years later he was a member of Boyle Golf Club, having developed a new passion on the fairways. And before long, he was volunteering as well.

"I retired from An Garda Siochana in 2004 and had plenty of time on my hands. I decided to offer my services as a volunteer in golf," says Mooney, who is now a highly respected golf referee.

Like so many volunteers in golf, Mooney plays many parts. After serving as Honorary Secretary at Boyle in 2003, he was elected as a council member of the Connacht Branch of the Golfing Union of Ireland in 2005. The following year he attended the R&A Referees School at St Andrews, and has been refereeing at GUI events ever since.

"I really enjoy the various aspects of working in golf," says Mooney "All this has led me to meet many, many people in the playing of golf and in the administration of golf at both National and International levels. The amount of enjoyment and satisfaction I get from this is what keeps me coming back."

Having refereed at the Home Internationals and various national championships, Mooney knows the importance of preparation.

"It is not merely about the time you put in before an event, it is important to keep yourself up-to-date with rule changes, conditions of competitions and handicapping changes. When there is an upcoming event, you make sure you have all your equipment in order - stop watch, umbrella, clothing, rain gear etc. - and it is only a matter of familiarising yourself with the golf course and its local rules," he says, describing his role as a referee.

Mooney is also heavily involved with handicapping and course rating, attending USGA Calibration Seminars in Frankfurt in 2012 and Madrid in 2016, not to mention his duties as a board member of the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU), the body charged with devising and reviewing the handicapping system in Great Britain and Ireland.

Although retired since 2004, golf keeps him busy and active most weeks of the year.

"Not a week goes by that I do not spend time as a volunteer either attending meetings, attending competitions as a rules official or tournament director, or doing course rating work," he says.

Throughout the 127-year history of the Golfing Union of Ireland, volunteers like Mooney have been central to its success. Mooney is one of more than 200 volunteers working for the GUI at present and that volunteer ethos ensures that the GUI remains a vibrant organisation, and more importantly, that the game of golf continues to prosper.

*​​Have you ever wondered what the GUI does? Find out all you need to know by reading, The GUI: What We Do - Click Here​