Since 2012, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim has organised a Charity Golf Competition for Brethren and friends on the third Friday in May. This has proved to be one of the most successful fund raising ventures that the Freemasons on the Province have undertaken, with a goodly sum of money donated to Masonic and non-Masonic Charities over the intervening years. In 2023, the Provincial Grand Master, Rt. Wor. Bro. John McLarnon designated AGE NI as his chosen Charity. In the first two years of the Competition, the event was staged at Ballycastle Golf Club, but since 2014 the venue has been Ballymena Golf Club, as it was found to be more central to the members in the Province of Antrim.

Though it is expected that Brethren from within the Province of Antrim will provide most of the competitors, together with their non-masonic friends, we have been delighted to welcome Freemasons from other Provinces in Northern Ireland, with Londonderry and Donegal well represented and this year the Provincial Grand Master, Rt Wor Bro Raymond Robinson and an Assistant PGM, Rt Wor Bro Alan Maguire took part. From Armagh, the Provincial Assistant Grand Master, Rt Wor Bro John Richardson made his annual pilgrimage in support of the event. As usual there were Brethren from Tyrone and Fermanagh together with some of their non-Masonic friends. In all, there were 23 non-Masons involved and their support is greatly appreciated. Unusually, this year we were honoured by a visit by two Brethren from a Lodge within the United Grand Lodge of England, Wor Bros Reul Saura, and Brian Emperial, who were over to attend an Installation of a friend in a Lodge in Belfast. This extension of our appeal augurs well for future years.

While Covid19 interrupted the Competition for the two years 2020 and 2021, it resumed in 2022 at Ballymena GC, with Wor Bro Malachy Bellew of The Three Brothers Masonic Lodge No. 775 proving a worthy winner, when the weather was far from perfect and deterred a number of golfers from completing or even starting their round. Thankfully, on Friday 19th May 2023 the weather was much more favourable and a field of 77 golfers took part, with several exceptional scores being returned. The trophy for the winning Mason is the Shalom Cup which was presented to Provincial Grand Lodge by Shalom ML 636, after their Lodge competition, started in 1932, had no longer been played. On this occasion it was won by Wor Bro Sammy Montgomery, a member of Seven Towers ML 476, Ballymena and now affiliated to Bushmills ML 414. Sammy returned an exceptional card with 43 Stableford points. Last year’s runner-up, Wor Bro D.J. “Des” Gray, ML 96, was once more pipped to the top prize with his 41 points with Bro Mark Robinson of Glenarm ML 45 on 38 points taking third place on his first visit to the Competition.

The Ladies’ prize was won by Mrs Frances Lawther, whose 37 points not only justified that award, but also outshone her husband, Wor. Bro. Martin Lawther’s efforts. No doubt she may face stiffer opposition next year from Martin and other ladies. The visitors prize for non-masons was won by Gary Lyttle who had a remarkable score of 46 points and was playing in the 4-ball with Wor Bro Sammy Montgomery. The runner-up was Richard Allen with 40 points. The prize for the longest drive, which was judged at the 18th fairway was won by Philip Graham, whose shot was within touching distance of the green. Wor Bro Russell Kennedy took the trophy for nearest the pin at the 4th hole, with a commendable effort landing at just over 1 metre from the hole.

Prizes were distributed in the clubhouse by the Provincial Grand Master, Rt. Wor. Bro. John McLarnon, who congratulated the winners and thanked all those who had participated. He then

added a special word of thanks to the organising committee under the leadership of the convenor, Rt Wor Bro Ivan Gillespie, Provincial Assistant Grand Master supported by V Wor Bro Michael Alexander, Rt Wor Bro David Hynds, Wor Bros Andrew Kennedy, Stephen Logan, Raymond Lynn, Allan McCullough, Joe McKeown, Grahame Todd and the Golf Competition Organiser since its inception in 2012, Rt Wor Bro Robert Wilson. The Committee have a monthly meeting to check on the progress of the fund-raising and discuss further needs for organising the Competition, which discussions take place with tea or coffee and scones to stimulate ideas. Prizes are purchased by the Committee Members so that all other donations go to the nominated Charity.

The success of this event is not only in the monies raised, but also the social aspect of the venture. This year, AGE NI will receive a sum in excess of £5,500, which will bring the overall total collected from sponsors and participating golfers to over £40,000 in these 11 years.

The golfers were delighted to complete their rounds in pleasant weather and be able to enjoy a very palatable meal in the comfortable surroundings of the club lounge, prepared by the chef, Carson McCartney. The Golf Club are to be congratulated on the excellent condition of the course and the general ambience of the Clubhouse, for which we were most grateful.

Already, plans have been formulated for the 2024 Competition, with the booking of Ballymena Golf Club being placed in the hands of Wor. Bro. Allan McCullough for Friday, 17th May 2024. Early bookings would greatly help the organisation, while the text received by the Competition Organiser at 01.17 on Friday 19th May this year allowed that player to be facilitated, earlier notification would be helpful.

We are most grateful to all Lodges, Brethren and golfers for their continued support of this worthy cause and look forward to the ongoing success of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim Charity Golf Competition.