24 May 2022

Great sadness at death of very popular Offaly golf official

Great sadness at death of very popular Offaly golf official

The late Aidan Marsden.

THE very sad death has taken place of one of Offaly's best and most capable golf officials, Aidan Marsden.

A native of Longford but living in Knockowen Road, Tullamore for several years, Aidan leaves a lasting legacy to golf but also the many people whose life he touched in a variety of ways.

He worked as a civil servant in the Department of Education, serving in Athlone and then moving to Tullamore when they opened their offices there many years ago as part of a Government decentralisation programme. He retired out of the Building Unit there over a decade ago but sadly he didn't get to enjoy his retirement in the manner he might have envisaged.

Firstly he had to deal with an illness to his beloved wife Joyce and then her death in 2016. Then within a few years he got ill himself, battling it with great courage and providing great inspiration to others as he continued to engage in life as fully as he could.

News of his death on Tuesday evening came as a real shock as he had been engaging on social media forums until recently, making comments on subjects that he was interested in.

Before coming to Tullamore, he had lived in Navan and worked in Customs but moved to the midlands after taking up a job with the Department of Education.

Aidan Marsden was particularly well known in golf circles. After moving to Tullamore in the late 1970s, he soon became a member of Tullamore Golf Club. He was a capable, solid golfer with a deep love for the sport – he loved both the competitive and social aspect of it. He generally played off a handicap around the 11-13 mark. He never got down to single figures but he was very competitive off his handicap. In the late 1980s, he beat Tullamore golfing legend Dinny White to win the club matchplay. He was beaten by Eamon Buggy in the captain's prize play off in 1990 and he was an occasional visitor to the prize winners' enclosure over the years. He represented Tullamore in several inter-club competitions and never let his side down.

His big contribution to golf was as an official, firstly with Tullamore Golf Club and then at provincial and national level with the Golfing Union of Ireland – his involvement at this level dwindled as new people took over when Golf Ireland was formed after the mens' and ladies unions amalgamated under the one umbrella a few years ago but he remained active. He was a chief rules expert in the Leinster branch of Golf Ireland until the time of his death and had been involved in meetings and drafting of rules up to near his death.

He was a great asset to the GUI and particularly Leinster Golf. He was their branch treasurer for a number of years and led several high powered committees, including a strategic review one back in 2013 and organising teams and coaching. He was a team manager for Ireland U-18 teams and was an ultra reliable match official, instantly solving any problems that arose.

Golf Ireland outlined on Tuesday evening: “He played a key role in the formation of Golf Ireland, chairing the Championships Working Group during the One Governing Body Discussion Group phase, and then participating on a Rules of Golf Expert Group during the Transition Period. As a member of the National Rules Committee since the formation of Golf Ireland, his contributions were always thoughtful, constructive, significant and forward-thinking and his absence from the Committee’s discussions in the future will be particularly felt.”

His contribution was immense and his love of administration and the rules was a factor in him not lowering his handicap further. He was mens' captain of Tullamore Golf Club in 1997 and was secretary of either the full club or the mens' club for several years after this as well as before – in Tullamore Golf Club, an overall committee with the president, changed to a chairman in 2020, looks after the general golf club with the general running of the club house and course under their remit while separate mens and ladies committee look after their respective competitions and inter-club teams, headed up by the mens' and ladies captains.

He held almost every position in the club at various stages. He served on almost every committee, he was club secretary, treasurer, PRO, competitions secretary, head of Governance and much more at different stages. He never took on president, despite several offers to take up the role but he preferred to do his work in the backround rather than in a main officer capacity, even though he did do his year as captain in 1997. He had been on the finance committee earlier this year but resigned a couple of months ago. He had previously resigned from committee back in 2005 when Tullamore Golf Club was suspended by the GUI for a breach of amateur status rules in relation to the prize presented for a captain's prize.

At the time, he had explained his decision to resign, saying: “"I have taken this action as a matter of principle. I felt that someone had to accept responsibility for what has happened to the GUI members of our club.

"While I did not create the problem, I was a member of the committee which oversaw the running of the Captains Prize Day. In the situation which has arisen, I felt that leadership had to be shown and responsibility accepted, so personally I felt I had no option but to resign.

"I have been a member of this club for 25 years and in that time I have served as Honorary Secretary, and on committee and I was very proud to represent the club as captain of Tullamore in 1997.

"It is a matter of deep personal regret that Tullamore, a well-established and respected golf club which has been affiliated to the GUI for over 100 years,is now suspended by the Union.

"It is a regrettable situation and one which is of great concern to me as a member. To say it is disappointing for me personally to see the club's reputation suffering in this way is an understatement.

"People have to stand up and be counted if we are to move forward and get past this unfortunate episode."

He was beaten in a vote for a council some years ago but instead of taking the defeat personally, he took it on the chin, bounced quickly back and resumed on committees and council in the following years.

He was a supremely efficient administrator and once he took on a job, you could be sure it would be done fully. He was meticulous, dependable, scruplessly honest, straight, pricipled and he did not suffer fools gladly. He got involved in every aspect of club life and was not afraid to get his hands dirty – recently, he had been out in the club helping repair divots.

He was a quite superb organiser with the ability to get things done and bring people with him. He was at his best when Tullamore Golf Club hosted the prestigious All-Ireland cups and shields finals back in the 2000s, helping ensure that the event ran like clockwork.

He was a keen amateur photographer, regularly documenting club life via his camera – he often supplied pictures to local newspapers, particularly the Tullamore and Midland Tribune.

He had a great interest in history and was a key figure in the production of the excellent Tullamore Golf Club history book in 2010 and their updated edition in 2021. He had a great understanding and passion for the importance of history and loved researching and writing stuff.

He was a huge promoter of junior golf and he gave great assistance to young male and female golfers in Tullamore, throughout Offaly and further afield in accessing top level coaching at provincial and national level – and he was still helping individuals until recently.

His contribution went much deeper than all this. He was an absolute expert on the rules, both the playing and general rules for the running of clubs, councils etc. Even in the rare years when he was taking a back seat and was not on committee, he remained the point of contact if any issue arose over playing or competition rules. In most cases, he knew the answer instantly but he always checked to make sure he was correct. His guidance was always correct and he was an invaluable asset to the club.

At different stages, he supplied weekly columns on rules to the Tullamore/Midland Tribune with his most recent one pubished in those traumatic early months of the first Covid-19 lockdowns a couple of years ago. He gave talks to his own club and other clubs and the hours he devoted to golf were countless. He was centrally involved in the drawing up of the Tullamore Golf Club constitution and many other important developments and plans.

He was a deeply principled, straight talking man. He did not shy back from confrontation and was not afraid to challenge individuals or committees if he felt rules were being breached or not enforced or the spirit of golf was being impinged. Rules are central to every organised sport but they are especially essential to golf where self regulation and complete honesty is paramount to the integrity of competitions – Aidan was from the old school when it came to rules and he did not tolerate them being broken.

It did bring him into conflict with people whom he challenged or called out but he always gave people the chance to present their side of the story and he could forget about differences. It is a tribute to the man that several people who found themselves on the receiving end of a rebuke from Aidan retained the height of respect and admiration for him, with many acknowledging that he had been right. Like every human, he did not and could not get everything right but his mistakes were very few and his motives were always sincere and for the greater good.

Aidan Marsden exuded decency. He was a personable, likeable, engaging, friendly man. He had a great quiet wit and a real sense of humour. He enjoyed people and knew how to have fun. He savoured his yearly golf holiday abroad with friends from Tullamore Golf Club until Covid brought that to a halt.

He had a great interest in many sports, especially the GAA and football. While he spent the majority of life outside of Longford, he retained a great passion for his native county and he developed a great love and respect for his adopted county of Offaly. His father had won an All-Ireland junior football medal with Longford in 1937 and while golf became his sport of choice, he retained a great interest and knowledge of football.

He was not shy about letting in a dig on the frequent occasions that Longford beat Offaly in recent years and reminding people that the 1982 All-Ireland senior football winning manager Eugene McGee had come from Longford. He regularly made comments to posts I put up on Facebook and Twitter about Offaly GAA news, congratuling Offaly teams on successes and occasionally getting Longford into the debate and his most recent comment was in the past couple of weeks.

I have known Aidan Marsden since the early 1990s and found him to be a very likeable, approachable, friendly and deeply obliging man. On the rare occasions when controversial stories had to be written about golf or clarification was needed on anything regarding the rules, he was a great point of contact and always obliged. Earlier this year, I consulted him about an issue that had come up and his advice was practical, solid and completely honest, confirming my own gut instincts about it – even though he would have taken certain views on the issues under scrutiny, he was firmly of the opinion that it was not in the public interest and did not need to be washed in public.

In recent months, he had given me great assistance in other work I did, including a write up on his daughter Una for a Women in Sport feature and an obituary on another Tullamore Golf Club stalwart, Tim Guiney – a great friend of Aidan's, who had done much of the work for the club histories.

He was a great conversationalist, knowledgeable about a wide spectrum of subjects and engaging company.

Above all, he was a real family man. He was a devoted, loyal husband, father, friend, neighbour and golf man. He was devoted to his wife Joyce and heartbroken at her premature death. He was proud of the golfing achievements of his daughter Una and son Eoin, both of whom competed at international level and remain excellent low handicap amateur golfers but he was also very proud of his older sons, Paul and Brian and regularly spoke about them and his grandchildren.

He will be sadly missed by so many people who knew and liked him. Their lives will be the poorer for his absence but they have been enriched by his presence and that is possibly the best tribute that can be paid to him.

Predeceased by his wife Joyce and brother Pat. Aidan will be sadly missed by his loving family Paul, Brian, Una and Eoin, daughters in law Nicola and Vivian, his grandchildren, brothers, sisters, brothers in law, sisters in law, nieces, nephews, relatives, neighbours and friends.

Reposing at his home on Wednesday evening from 5pm until Rosary at 8pm. Removal on Thursday afternoon to the Church of the Assumption, Tullamore, arriving for Funeral Mass at 1pm. Burial after Mass in Clonminch Cemetery,

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