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 of 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, R.W. Brother John McLernon 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, R W. Brother Raymond Robinson and an Provincial Assist. Grand Master, R.W. Brother Alan Maguire took part.
From the Province of Armagh, the Provincial Assistant Grand Master, R.W. Brother 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 twenty-two (22) 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, W. Brothers 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 Covid-19 interrupted the competition for the two years 2020 and 2021, it resumed in 2022 at Ballymena Golf Club, with W. Brother 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 seventy-seven (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 M.L. No.636, after their Lodge competition, started in 1932, had no longer been played.
On this occasion it was won by W. Brother Sammy Montgomery, a member of Seven Towers M.L. No.476, Ballymena, and now affiliated to Bushmills M.L. No.414. Sammy returned an exceptional card with forty-three (43) Stableford points. Last year’s runner-up, W. Brother D.J. “Des” Gray, of Stalwart M.L. No.96, was once more pipped to the top prize with his forty-one (41) points with Brother Mark Robinson of Glenarm M.L. No.45 on thirty-eight (38) points, taking third place on his first visit to the Competition.
The visitors prize for non-masons was won by Gary Lyttle who had a remarkable score of forty-six (46) points and was playing in the 4-ball with W. Brother Sammy Montgomery.
The runner-up was Richard Allen with forty (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.
W. Brother Russell Kennedy took the trophy for nearest the pin at the 4th hole, with a commendable effort landing at just over one (1) metre from the pin.
Prizes were distributed in the clubhouse by the Provincial Grand Master, R.W. Brother. John McLernon, 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, R. W. Brother Ivan Gillespie, Provincial Assistant Grand Master supported by R.W. Brother Michael Alexander, R.W. Brother David Hynds, W. Brothers Andrew Kennedy, Stephen Logan, Raymond Lynn, Allan McCullough, Joe McKeown, Grahame Todd and the Golf Competition Organiser since its inception in 2012, R.W. Brother 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 £5,000, which will bring the overall total collected from sponsors and participating golfers to over £40,000 in these eleven (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.
Article provided by R.W. Brother Robert Wilson