Sport - Golf
Jenny Hennessy (centre) with Aideen Walsh (left) and Aine Donegan (right) at Lahinch Golf Club Image Credit: Harry Grimshaw, Golf Editor

Home is where the heart is, and for Chicks With Sticks founder Jenny Hennessy, she is enjoying the summer after returning to her roots in Ennis, County Clare, Ireland. Gulf News were exclusively invited along to her home golf club Lahinch.

“We are thrilled to have Harry and Gulf News at Lahinch Gulf Club today. A very warm welcome to the West coast of Ireland!” as Jenny brushes the hair from her face.

“It’s a bit windy so we are all looking a little wind swept today! But it’s great to be back for the summer, temperatures were hitting over 40 degrees in Dubai. It may not be sunny here today, but great temperatures for golf!

“I’ve been a member here at Lahinch Golf Club since I was like 10-years-old. I often joke that it’s my happy place and great to be back for another summer of fun and devilment!

Watch the full feature with Jenny at Lahinch Golf Club Harry Grimshaw, Golf Editor Gulf News

Lahinch Golf Club has hosted a number of prestigious golf events. Most famously of recent, the 2019 Men’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open on the DP World Tour where Jon Rahm was the winner.

“Now that was a week to remember for all! Inshallah we will get the Irish Open back some day. We are hosting the Palmer Cup next year so we are really lucky.

“I’m really lucky that there is such a strong Ladies section at Lahinch. It’s all so well organised, there’s so many amazing Ladies and players. I was so lucky to be involved in that from an early age, the junior golf programme was really strong here so I played junior golf every summer growing up. Then started playing on the Senior Cup Team when I was a teenager and we have loads of amazing role models at the club and lots of great players.

Was my honour to do the same in Dubai

“When I went to Dubai I felt there was a huge gap for me, it was great to go out and play with the lads and have a bit of fun but I missed that competitive club element that I have here at Lahinch. So I missed that when I first moved to Dubai and I saw that gap in the market of introducing women to golf and I was so lucky that happened so organically and naturally for me here at Lahinch, so it was my honour to do the same in Dubai with Chicks With Sticks.”

Jenny’s footprint in the UAE isn’t going unnoticed and seems to be the talk of the club here on the west coast of Ireland which various members of Lahinch Golf Club can vouch for!

Women's golf in Dubai really coming along

“It really is the talk of the club here at Lahinch, everyone is really interested” said Lahinch member Aideen Walsh. “It’s something different and really successful and it’s great to see that the golf in Dubai and the UAE is really coming along, especially in women’s golf.

“I’m a primary school teacher here in Ireland and my friends go off to Dubai and they’ll text me and say “Oh I met your friend Jenny from Chicks With Sticks” and they weren’t golfers, but they are now!”

Aideen has been a member for seven years now and claimed her first Irish cap last year, as she balances her time now between her teaching career and playing the amateur golfing circuit.

Then there’s 21-year-old Aine Donegan who is currently on a golf scholarship at Louisiana State University. The Irish International is in fact one of 28 amateurs in the 2023 United States Women’s Open this week, being played for the first time at the iconic Pebble Beach Golf Links in California. Despite her busy lifestyle, Aine is still keeping a close eye on what Jenny is up to in the UAE.

“Jenny setting up Chicks With Sticks in Dubai is a big thing. I even have friends at University in America who have heard of it. I think what she has done to promote it is really good for the game and it’s something she has always said “it just happened” she didn’t mean to do it.

“It’s the fact that she loves golf, the social side, the competition, just like we do. And just because the men play it and get all the big prize funds and tv coverage doesn’t mean that there’s not women playing and you see it on the pro’s side that the prizes are getting bigger, more coverage on tv and people are showing up to watch it. So it’s definitely growing and I think it’s great for the game.”

Neither Aideen or Aine have visited the UAE before but it’s number one destination on both of their bucket lists for the future!

“I haven’t been to the UAE before, but there is the World Amateur Team Championships over at Abu Dhabi Golf Club in October. It’s a big goal of mine to get picked, so hopefully by October I would have been there and get to see you and Gulf News again!” said Aine.

Dubai every year just seems to get better

“I have heard great stuff about the golf in Dubai. Everyone knows the golf in the UAE is good and it gets a lot of coverage on TV and you see all the pros out there like Rory McIlroy and especially the European pros and you even see more Americans in the past few years travelling over which is great. Then Dubai every year just seems to get better and better and the whole of the Middle East in social media and the media in general.”

Sport - Golf - Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy

Aideen went onto say, “I also haven’t been to the UAE, but I’ve seen pictures and videos and it all just looks really nice. I would have to adjust to the temperature! We don’t get those type of temperatures here on the west coast of Ireland. The courses look unbelievable, I would love to get the chance to go and play.

“But for me, I have played golf all over the world and this course here at Lahinch is just so special. Compared to courses in Dubai it would obviously be very different, and you can see that straight away when you look at it.

“Here at Lahinch we are known for having a lot of blind shots. The famous dell is a par 3, a blind par 3! You could probably hit a perfect shot there and come out walking off with a four or a five because you just never really know.

“Then there is a few other famous holes, six and seven where you are right by the coast line and it’s really, really beautiful. I believe Graeme McDowell who is an Irish Touring Professional said that one of his favourite views in golf is the view from the sixth hole.”

Colm McLoughlin lived across the road

The connections with Dubai and Lahinch continued. Valerie Hassett, a member of Lahinch Golf Club since 1970 grew up in Ennis, a close neighbour of Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free and Lahinch Golf Club Honorary member.

“I’ve known Colm for 40 years I’d say. He grew up across the road from me in Ennis and he worked in the Shannon Airport in the Duty Free. He then went off to Dubai and set up the Dubai Duty Free and has never looked back! We are very proud of Colm.

Jon Rahm with Dubai Duty Free Executive Vice Chairman & CEO, Colm McLoughlin
Jon Rahm with Dubai Duty Free Executive Vice Chairman & CEO, Colm McLoughlin Image Credit: Supplied

“He is also very instrumental in the horse racing in Dubai and the Irish Golf so we are very proud of him and he has done a lot for Ireland, and I’m sure Colm has done a lot for Dubai as well!

“It’s a similar story with Jenny heading to Dubai really. What she is doing with Chick With Sticks is very impressive.”

With the support of her family and friends, Jenny looks forward to an exciting summer in Lahinch, “Everyone at the club knows what I’m doing with Chicks With Sticks and are all so supportive and want to see and hear about my updates. I’m hopefully looking at doing some pop up events here in Ireland in the Autumn as I do think the market is there.

“All my friends want me to bring Chicks With Sticks back here to the county of Clare. So let’s see what happens!”