2 August 2023
~6 minutes read
A Slice of Life: Fergal O’Shea opening up Galway Bay to the World
By Daragh Small
The match between Christy O’Connor Jnr and Fred Couples was finely poised as the pair battled it out up the 18th at the Belfry.
It was Sunday 24 September 1989 and the 2 iron that followed sent reverberations around the game, the Irishman made history in the Ryder Cup.
A few weeks ago World No 2 Rory McIlroy did his best to recreate that feat, a lower stinger to within a few feet of the flag on his way to claiming the Scottish Open, albeit with a more advanced Taylormade P760.
But it is O’Connor’s club that will become immortalized overtime, and in Galway Bay Golf Resort their newly named bar and restaurant dons the name.
The 2 Iron Bar & Restaurant is part of a revamp that has been brewing over a number of years and with Fergal O’Shea as General Manager now they have the right man to steer the ship.
Galway Bay wants to become a local for the Oranmore market, a more established presence as a top links on the west coast and then a central hub for travelling golfers.
“Certainly the way the Connacht Hospitality Group talked about it, I looked at the website at the time too and I was like okay, we can really make something out of this,” said O’Shea.
“This was an unsung golf course. I was like, why do I not know about this, other than when my cousin got married there 25 years ago?
“The role that it presented was the challenge that I was looking for, that would keep me in a role for a number of years. The place is growing, the promise of a hotel, that is going to be massive for travel golf when it comes.
“Even in my few weeks there I have seen the growth of the American market. Week after week there is more and more.”
O’Shea hails from Cooraclare just over 90kms away but he and his wife Kimberly have only returned to Ireland from the USA.
It was there that he caught the golfing bug, his Clare U-21 and Wolfe Tones hurling past afforded him the unique ability to provide lessons off both sides and he was soon fast-tracked to caddying at former Major host, Quail Hollow.
He went from there to an Assistant Golf Professional job at Providence Country Club, he got his certification to teach golf.
O’Shea had the opportunity to completely envelop himself in the game of golf, and everything behind the scenes, a new director of operations position came on the market at Tega Cay.
“It’s a Polynesian Golf Club just outside of Charlotte, only six miles from where I lived,” said O’Shea.
“I ran that for two years. I was over all of it. I was working for a really good company, Pinnacle Golf Properties. They gave you the templates of how they wanted it run but then let you run certain things the way you wanted them.
“They were selling $90,000 a year, our first year we did $220,000, our second year we did $230,000 which is a lot for a public golf course, a pay for play. We probably had only 180 members, maxed out.
“I just tried to change the culture. It took a good year for people to get used to it. The place is going really well now, it’s good to see it getting better.”
O’Shea had succeeded at the first time of asking and he returned to Providence Country Club, this time as the Head Golf Professional.
That was two years ago, and when he and his wife chose to move back to Ireland, his significant experience Stateside was a huge factor with Galway Bay welcoming him in.
He has been in the hotseat since April and with a major hotel renovation on the horizon, to complement the refurbished clubhouse, restaurant and bar it is exciting times for O’Shea and the rest of his team.
“It will look different, the design will be a lot different, it should connect with the existing clubhouse that is there now. There will be a walkway to get from one place to the other,” said O’Shea.
“There are tentative plans that there is going to be a spa there too. Other little things like that added on. I think there is going to be 110 rooms. It is just renovating the whole inside of it which takes a lot longer than people think. Hopefully sometime in 2025 that will be open. That is what I am hoping and planning for.
“They have already turned an awful lot of things around with the dining experience. You are looking right out onto the golf course and Galway Bay. Even from the bar area, which is segregated just a little bit, you can still see right out onto the 18th and onto Galway Bay. Which is always nice to be able to do that.
“The function room upstairs is spectacular too. With the renovation that’s completely different, they opened up the whole lot of it, it’s spectacular. Brown Thomas had their Galway Races Fashion Show out there the week before last. It looked really well, a really great show.”
O’Shea, who ironically is a former archaeologist, now has sleeves rolled up ready to launch into another project in Galway Bay.
From working on The Burren Cairns, to overhauling golf clubs in USA, he has cut his teeth and has a diverse CV to offer out west. And he could have found himself the perfect canvas.
“We are hoping we will be able to tell tour groups in January that we will have a hotel open for them in 2025. That will be a game changer,” said O’Shea.
“Galway Bay can be their base to not just Connemara and Bearna and those courses that they are using up along the west coast but it’s also a short trip to Lahinch and Doonbeg.
“To be honest, if you are there you can just take the ferry across to Ballybunion, Waterville and Tralee too.”