The Club was founded in 1945 by the late Mrs Helen McDonnell of the Park Hotel in the grounds of which the course is located. Mrs McDonnell laid out the course assisted by Major Bennett, an engineer with the British Army, who happened to be staying in the hotel at that time. The tees were built up with stones from the lake shore, ferried by donkey and cart. In 1953 her son, Barry, and his wife Helen Junior took over the management of the Hotel and arranged an agreement and nominal rent with the Club to maintain the course. Up to then the fairways were cut with a mower pulled by two horses and it took two days to do same. The greens were cut with a hand mower borrowed from the hotel.
As club funds grew during the 1960’s the club could afford to hire a tractor to cut the fairways. A major turning point came in the early 1970’s when Mannix Smith, a successful business man and Captain in 1972 donated a tractor to the Club. Mannix was owner and managing director of a very successful ladies wear business in Dublin called Janelle. He also presented two cups, the Janelle Cups to the club which were awarded to the winners of an Open Mixed Foursome Match play Competition. This competition put Virginia on the map as players came from all over to compete. The fixture list appeared in the national newspapers as over 120 players took part. It was run over two weeks and the presentation took place in the Park Hotel. Throughout the early 1970’s the Janelle Competition attracted huge crowds of spectators and the 10th tee became known as “the Hogan Stand” as people vied for the best vantage point. The Park Hotel encouraged by its then owners Helen McDonnell provided a welcoming recluse for all, winners and losers and provided a great social outlet for the club at that time.
The ladies section was very strong in those early days and two ladies in particular brought great honour to the club, Mrs Julie English and Miss Miriam Arnold. Playing in “the Daily Mail Foursomes” Competition these ladies won the All Ireland Finals in 1966, 1969 and 1972. They travelled the length and breadth of the country at their own expense and went on to represent Ireland in the Home Internationals reaching the final on one occasion and the semi-finals on the other two.
While the gents have had some local success in the Cavan-Monaghan Alliance and Treacy Cup Competitions, our most noteworthy success on a National basis was in the Ulster Cup in the early 1990’s. This competition is a club match play, one on a home and away basis, with an individual handicap limit of 10. Although very limited in its narrow choice of players, Virginia took the scalps of some notable large clubs such as Malone, Mourne, Ardglass and Screbo. However, the most famous victory of all was the defeat of Royal Portrush who had great difficulty in locating Virginia on the map at the onset. This victory became a much talked about achievement not only around Virginia but throughout Ulster clubs generally.
***Many thanks to Finbarr O'Reilly for writing this historical piece for our club website***