My friend Sean K Power died last week. He was aged 86. My memories of Sean go back a long time and they are all happy and positive.
Sean was a newspaper man initially and then moved into public relations. When I met him he was doing great work with Garrett Fitzgerald. Sean was, for a while, Chairman of the Oireachtas Press association. It was said that when Garrett visited Cork, when he was Taoiseach, he would always stay in Sean’s home rather than stay in a hotel. He was also very friendly with and did much work with Peter Barry of Barry’s Tea fame who went on to become Minister for Foreign affairs and played a big part in the Irish Peace process.
Peter Barry & Sevy talking golf
When I got to know Sean he had formed his own PR Company, Power Communications, and he was working closely with John A Mulcahy who built Waterville Golf Club. Through his connection with Waterville he became advisor and mentor to its touring Professional at that time, the long hitting Liam Higgins who is still involved at Waterville. Sean used to arrange the John A Mulcahy Pro-Am that attracted the world’s leading professional golfers and world famous stars of stage and screen to Waterville, where they stayed and wined and dined in style at the Waterville Lake Hotel overlooking Waterville’s famous fishing lake.
City Life was a very small company at the time that Sean came on board with us. He showed us how he could use his literary skills to weave stories about what was going on at City Life and the merits of doing business with us and these stories were printed in the daily & Sunday papers. Sean also helped us to arrange an annual golf outing for our customers in Waterville each year and we stayed in the wonderful Butler Arms Hotel. Truly wonderful fun times when Waterville wasn’t so busy and our business was really appreciated. I still maintain that golf at Waterville with a stay at The Butler Arms is hard to beat, with just maybe one pint before dinner in Mick O Dwyer’s pub across the road.
I thought then about writing a book and discussed it with Sean. He agreed to help. The book was called “Don’t be afraid to Dream” and we put a plan in place. The deal was that I had to write a chapter each month (handwritten at that time) and I would call to Sean’s house with my chapter each month and he would then edit it and have it ready for my approval when I came with my next chapter. Thanks to Sean we got it finished and published. No it wasn’t a best seller but I will always be grateful to Sean for helping me get the job done.
The final chapter in my little story about Sean Power is to do with Sevy Ballesteros – one of the most wonderful and charismatic golfers the world has ever seen. I was coming in as captain at Little Island in 1983 and was playing in a Pro Am at Douglas Golf Club the year before when I met with an old friend Brian Campbell who was the secretary of the PGA. Brain knew that I was coming in as captain and asked me if I was going to do anything special to mark my year as captain. I asked him what he meant and he said “you should arrange an exhibition match and get some famous golfer to play at Little Island.” I asked him who he would suggest and he replied as quick as a flash, “there is only one man – Sevy Ballesteros!”
I thought no more about it until a few weeks later I got a note from Brian with the fax number for Jorge de Ceballos who was Sevy’s manager. Nothing ventured, so I sent him a fax. I asked if Sevy coming to Ireland in 1983 and, if so, could he include a trip to Cork to play an exhibition match? My second question was what it would cost!
Very quickly Jorge came back – yes, Sevy was playing in the Carroll’s Irish Open at Royal Dublin which was finishing on Sunday 14th August. He advised that Sevy would travel to Cork on the Sunday and be available to play at Little Island on the Monday. The answer to the second part of my question was that the fee for the day would be $20,000 US Dollars (or £15,000 Irish Pounds). Thirty five years ago that was a tasty sum!
I then had to find some money to fund it as I knew if I went back to my committee at Little Island looking for that amount of cash they would only laugh at me. I was doing some good business at the time with Shield Life (now Zurich Life) and the chairman at the time happened to be an old friend of mine Sam Thompson of Thompson’s Bakery in Cork. Sam was also a member and former captain of Little Island and, like myself, a bit of a golf nut.
Pat O’Reilly, Stuart Wason, Sam Thompson (of Shield Life), Sevy & myself
I approached Sam with my plan and in fairness, from the word go he was totally supportive. They eventually agreed to put up 50% of the cash and would also run a Pro-Am at Little Island the day before the exhibition match.
And so that famous day dawned when Sevy visited Little Island. Sevy had won the Master’s at Augusta earlier in the year and had also won the Carroll’s Irish Open the day before he played in Cork. He was the number one golfer in the world by miles at that time.
The day started with an early morning visit to the Mercy Hospital where my vice-captain Dr Seamus O Donoghue was the consultant to the children’s leukaemia ward there. Sevy had agreed to visit the hospital with Seamus to meet and spend some time with the children, which gave them all a wonderful lift. The nurses, I understand, were on a bit of a high afterwards too!
The plan for the day was that Sevy would do a clinic with some of his famous trick shots at around 10am in front of the clubhouse by the 14th green and then play 18 holes with Liam Higgins. Liam and Sevy were similar flamboyant type golfers who both hit the golf ball out of sight. Liam was originally from Little Island so it was a great boost to the local people of Little Island that Liam, one of their own, would take on the Spanish star.
Sean Power and I were waiting in the locker room at Little Island for Sevy’s arrival. We had told the driver to pick him up from the hospital in good time in case the traffic was slow. As a result, he arrived at about 9:15. His first question to us was what time was the clinic starting. We told him and he said “Why am I here so early? I could have spent more time with those wonderful children”.
Sean then explained to Sevy what the plan for the day was and Sean said to Sevy that when the exhibition match was over he had arranged for a helicopter to pick him up from the practice ground and bring him directly to the airport. I could sense Sevy getting quiet and a bit uneasy at this stage and there was silence for a while. Eventually Sevy said “I don’t think so Sean”. Sean replied “Sevy its ok I will go in the helicopter with you”. Sevy looked Sean straight in the eye and said “Sean, you’re much older than me. I am not getting into any helicopter with anyone” and that was that! Sevy wasn’t someone you argued with.
Sevy entertaining the crowd
I think everyone at Little Island that day will forever remember the wonderful exhibition that Sevy and Liam Higgins gave us. I have always felt also that for the people of Little Island it was a really proud day for them to see Sevy playing against their local hero Liam Higgins on their wonderful golf course, beautifully constructed around the famous limestone quarries of Little Island perched on the banks of the River Lee.
Liam Higgins, Sevy, myself, Stuart Wason, Dr Seamus O’Donoghue & Sam Thompson after the exhibition
Sadly, Sevy and now Sean are both gone to their golf course in the sky. We thank them for some wonderful memories. May they rest in peace.
Ted Dwyer Family Business