Marcel Proust wrote that, “People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive”. Those words were rarely more manifest than last weekend as we all tried to cope with the tragic and heart-breaking news of the passing of our beloved golf professional, Connor Mallon. He was just thirty-five years old.
He was the first to hold the position in the 82-year history of Narin and Portnoo Golf Club and we came to rely on him from the off. The shop was a haven from the wind and rain and many a golfer sat for hours with Connor, discussing the latest sports news and enjoying the banter as he went on about his business. You knew he liked your company and even on sunny days, there would invariably be someone ensconced in the big armchair.
Kids loved him, for in Connor, they saw a kindred spirit. You could see their admiration in the respectful attention to his tuition at his golf clinics. He indulged them with Mars bars, golf balls, caps and tee-shirts, creating for them a friendly club atmosphere in which they felt comfortable. He knew they were the future of the club and they will always look back to their first and greatest golf teacher and mentor.
When Connor spoke to you, you had his full attention. Nothing was too much trouble. His lessons were superbly efficient and positive affairs, full of praise and good advice. Finnian O’Doherty was the first of our young members to graduate from the Connor Mallon school of excellence and he is now reaping the benefits on a golf scholarship in the States. He has lost not just a coach and mentor, but a great friend.
People came from far and wide to our club because of Connor. He marketed and promoted us at every opportunity, bringing the name of Narin and Portnoo to diverse spots around the globe. The many people paying tribute to him on the internet have commented on his good nature, his quick wit and his genuine love of people; how one meeting was all it took to come under his spell, as one blogger recounted who met him in Florida this past January. Fans from North West to Ballyliffin to Florida were testament to that magnetism and charisma.
And what a golfer! His poise and balance were superb, his temperament ideal and his talent there for everybody to see. The quality of his ball-striking was exemplary, which combined with his course management often resulted in scores well below the par of 73. It was a privilege to play with the big fellow and he was never bothered about how high your handicap might be. The craic and the possibility of a good yarn or two were his lifeblood on the golf course, though competitive juices were sure to flow if birdies were required in a keenly contested fourball.
Reminiscences of happier times filled our waking moments as we prepared to lay our friend and colleague to rest: the bear hugs, the friendly salutations, the eclectic fashion statements, the booming laughter and genuine conviviality. Tears flowed as it dawned on us how great a loss he will be.
Others knew Connor better and for longer. We only had the pleasure of his company for four dynamic and fun-filled years. Connor and his assistant, Daragh were an irresistible combination, as fluid and supportive a pairing as you could ever hope to meet. They brought a life and vitality to our club which made it such a happy place to hang out. The other staff members thought the world of Connor and his escapades and the yarns will resonate around the clubhouse and course for years to come. They, and Daragh, will miss him greatly.
We will continue to pray for Shawna and their four young children, and for all his family, friends and colleagues. Their loss is incalculable. He has left an indelible mark on our club and will never be forgotten. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam galánta.