I am often asked how I got into golf. Well, my Dad first introduced me to golf when I was about ten years old. Let me tell you, it certainly wasn’t a love affair at first sight. In fact, at the start golf and me did not agree at all, merely because I was so bad!
My older sister and I were gifted a Black Cat Lynx junior golf set by my Dad. I was ten years old at the time and my sister was twelve. He had brought them home from a work trip to the US. Junior sets weren’t as available as they are now back then, so these were pretty cool to have! At the time I wasn’t old enough to enroll in the local golf clubs junior golf programme, so they were mainly used by my sister. The Ennis Golf Club junior golf programme was led with great dedication by two amazing ladies, Jean Moloney and Kay Vaughan. When I was eleven I was allowed to join. Jean and Kay turned up with great enthusiasm and always a smile, hail, rain or snow. Never a Saturday morning was wasted. If it was raining we would even practice putting on the speckled carpet in the upstairs bar. Golf was never canceled!
Jean and Kay worked tirelessly to ensure we were all improving. My head used to move more than a bobblehead toy when swinging the club. Jean used to physically hold my head still to help create some stability in my swing, very brave of her I must say! Kay on the other hand was notorious for allowing us to play with our friends, more chatting than chipping took place when these sort of requests were granted! Both ladies instilled a fondness for the game in me from a young age. I may not have been very good, but their constant encouragement and fun nature made my initial junior golf adventure a very positive experience. I was lucky that a lot of my school friends at the time were also enrolled in the programme. This along with the fact that my sister and I were ferociously competitive with one another kept me somewhat interested in playing. But above all, I must say getting to have sausages and chips and chat with my school friends every Saturday was definitely the cherry on top of the cake!
I started playing junior golf during the summers in Lahinch when I turned twelve. It took place every Friday afternoon. The three euro competition entry entitled you to a complementary can of coke or mars bar each week. I didn’t even like mars bars, but a mars bar from Junior golf in Lahinch hit differently! There were only a handful of junior girl golfers here at the time, and we stuck together like glue amidst the herds of our male counterparts. Us girls would have great debates each week as we queued up to pay, which treat was it going to be this week, the mars bar or the coke! Each Friday we would hover around the clubhouse waiting for the boys to tee off first. A few times every summer Kevin Glynn, the junior convenor at Lahinch, would insist that the boys step aside and clear the way for us girls to tee off bang smack in the middle of all the boys. We would have happily stood around waiting to tee off for two hours to avoid having to tee off in front of the boys, but Kevin was doing the gentleman-like thing and instilling in the boys that ‘ladies go first’. My God, those first tee moments with the young male population of Lahinch gazing on at you were some of the most nerve wracking golfing experiences of my life! We would be absolutely beaming with ourselves if we even made half decent contact with the ball and got it off up the fairway. Getting the driver off the first tee and not four putting the 18th green were considered huge wins in my junior golfing experience. Character building I think they like to call it?!
Those who know me well know I am a Disney fanatic! My sister Diane often reminds me of one particular day at junior golf that left a lasting impression on her. Still relatively new to golf at the time, I didn’t have all the correct gear. I found myself out in the middle of a junior golf competition in the pouring rain wearing Winnie the Pooh dungarees. Light in colour (beige/white) I certainly was quite the vision with my translucent dungarees draped to my skin. Nonetheless, I remember carrying on with a smile as everyone else was getting a good laugh, at my expense of course! I am yet to find a Winnie the Pooh driver headcover, if any readers out there spot one, please do get in touch!
When I was 12, I won a junior golf tournament called the Eileen Roughan Trophy at Lahinch, Castle Course. I scored 49 points playing off a handicap of 34! After this win, I thought to myself that maybe I could be good at golf. My Dad also often reminds me of a particular 3 wood shot I hit on the 6th hole on the Old Course at Lahinch one summer’s evening, around the same time of my first ‘big win’. My swing and shot were apparently quite impressive, he knew ‘there was a golfer in me’. Soon after this I caught ‘the golf bug’! I started being selected for underage regional and national coaching panels and teams. I progressed quite quickly and was a single digit handicap by the age of 15. My wonderful mum chauffeured me around the length and breadth of the country. Between the endless hours of coaching I received (and still receive!) off my dad and the mileage my mother clocked up on her car, I simply couldn’t have progressed as quickly as I did without their support.
Many moons later now playing off a handicap of 1, I still very much have ‘the golf bug’. Unfortunately a lot of junior girls I grew up competing with in the junior ranks in Ireland don’t even play golf anymore. Some were burnt out from the competitiveness of the sport from a young age, some also had incredibly pushy parents. Parents out there thinking of getting your kids into golf, I encourage you all to instill a love of the game in your children by showcasing the more appealing, fun sides of the sport. For me, it was the chats with friends, a comfortable and relaxed setting, not to mention the food being the main reward! I guess some things never change, nowadays once I hit the 15th fairway on the Old Course at Lahinch I am already starting to think about what I want off the menu that day!
Alas that is all from me for my April column, tune back next month for more golfing tales! April always reminds me of Easter time. This year I will be spending Easter at home in Ireland. Having spent most of my twenties living abroad in the USA and the UAE, I must say I am greatly looking forward to being at home for Easter this year. My dad, Ray, will be coming in as the President of Lahinch Golf Club for the next golfing year on Easter weekend. He feels he is a little too ‘young’ to be a club president, nonetheless it is a huge honour and he is sure to make the most out of his year! I am also getting the opportunity to play Royal Portrush this month, The Open course. April is looking shaping up to be a pretty good month!