'The most satisfying aspect is seeing players progress'

​​Watching young players progress is what makes the effort worthwhile for GUI volunteer Jimmy Duggan, Ireland Under-16 Boys Captain​

  • 08 December 2017

Picture: Jimmy Duggan watching the 2016 Connacht Boys Open with Darren Clarke - Golffile

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.​

Earlier this year Ireland won the Quadrangular International Boys Tournament for the second time in three years. Captained by Galway's Jimmy Duggan, the Irish Under-16s swooped to victory in Wales as they completed a clean sweep at Prestatyn, recording wins against Wales, England and The Netherlands in a series of match play encounters.

With players like Luke O'Neill (Connemara), Aaron Marshall (Lisburn) and Odhran Maguire (Slieve Russell) - younger brother of Leona, the world's number one female amateur - Duggan is excited about the future for Irish golf.

"I can see these players doing something special," says Duggan. "Probably the most satisfying aspect of being involved in junior golf is seeing players progress and go forward."

Duggan, who has been a member of Galway Golf Club since 1967 having begun his love affair with the game in Claremorris as a boy, has been volunteering in golf for the best part of 15 years. His association with junior golf began in Galway, where he served as junior convenor.

"We got an Academy going within the club," says Duggan. "We got a lot of young fellas together and put a lot into it. The boys enjoyed it. It's not just for elite golfers, it's for everybody. It's great to see young players coming along and improving."

Currently Duggan is a member of the GUI's Junior Golf Committee and also serves on the GUI's Championship Committee. Like many volunteers, he wears more than one hat.

"If you enjoy it, the time makes no difference," he says when asked about the commitment required to be a volunteer. At present, the GUI has more than 200 volunteers made up of committee members, referees, administrators, team captains and managers.

In his capacity as Ireland Under-16 Captain, Duggan travels with representative teams at international level. Aside from his duties within junior golf, he gives much of his time to refereeing at GUI events such as last week's AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship.

"First of all, you have to be there in advance before the golf starts, arriving midday the day before the championship," Duggan says, outlining the routine for a referee at an event such as the Close.

"The Championship Committee hold a meeting the day before and we go through the local rules as well as any issues that are likely to crop up during the tournament. Our briefing runs for about an hour. Everything is done to a high standard. Then we take a look around the course to check everything. If you have a difficulty, you would ask for advice or you might find things out that you bring to the notice of the tournament director."

On tournament days, the volunteer referees are usually first to arrive and often last to leave. 

"We would be at the course an hour before the first tee time to get set up," Duggan explains. "I was covering the first four holes to make sure there were no issues and that I'm available to resolve any problems or rulings that arise."

With the last group teeing off at 2:20pm, Duggan's day was not complete until the early evening.

"It was probably 5:45pm before we're finished," he adds. "Then we have dinner together. You would be tired after it. It's a long day but you enjoy one's company and there is a good group of us together."

During the season, volunteers such Duggan cover up to six events at national level. A tournament such as the Irish Close, which runs for five days, can be quite demanding yet GUI volunteers do not see this as a burden and 93% of all volunteers remain with the Union for at least three years.

It is this volunteer ethos had laid the foundations for the first golfing union in the world, and it is what sustains the GUI to this day.

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