29 Apr 2020

How does Ireland produce so many world class golfers?

 By Scott Grayston

With a population of under seven million people, it’s remarkable how many top golfers the island of Ireland produces.

World No.1 Rory McIlroy, 2019 Open champion Shane Lowry, 2010 US Open champion Graeme McDowell, 2011 Open winner Darren Clarke and current Ryder Cup captain and three-times Major winner Padraig Harrington are just a few examples of the unbelievable talents that have come from this tiny part of the world.

But how do they keep producing such top talent?

“We’ve got great a golf structure in Ireland,” says Ryder Cup legend Paul McGinley. “We have got one golfing body ‘The Golfing Union of Ireland’ who administer the north and south and I’m often asked how can we produce so many world class players and Major champions – and it’s because of the structures we have in place at junior level.

“We’ve got brilliant golf courses and all our amateur events in Ireland are played on these great courses, even from a young age.

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“Secondly, there’s a lot of money invested at junior level. Once you’re a young teenager and are showing any kind of skill and interest to play the game to a decent level, you’ll get fed into the system and supported to travel and compete against other boys and girls on a fast track.

Huge Success

“You’ll represent your Province first of all and then be representing Ireland. It’s no coincidence the amount of success Ireland has in golf.

“We’re a little bit slower out of the blocks with the girls but have a couple now on Tour and in the LPGA with Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow. Hopefully some more will come through soon too because they’ve got very similar structures, availability and things going on behind the scenes as the boys do, so we need to accelerate that in the next few years.”

Rory McIlroy is the current World No.1

Rory McIlroy overtook Brooks Koepka to return to World No.1 in February after more than 1,600 days outside the summit. The 30-year-old enjoyed one of the most consistently spectacular seasons of his careers in 2019 winning the FedEx Cup and being named the PGA Tour Player of the Year. Everything seems to have really come into place for the Ulsterman.

Ambition

“I’ve never seen Rory play better,” McGinley adds. “I think he’s maturing all the time as a golfer and is comfortable with what he’s doing and has ownership of his own game. He doesn’t make the game complicated and he looks like he still has ambition and this is key.

“If he keeps the ambition, there’s no reason why in the next five years that he can’t dominate because nobody plays the game better than he does.

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“There’s a few that are close to him like Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson, but the separating factor is the ambition and keeping the fire inside you burning brightly.

“The challenge for Rory is that when he comes across this enormous wealth that he’s accumulated and the Major wins, it’s easy to come off the boil – but that doesn’t seem to be the case with him.”

With all the structure they have in place, it will be no means of a surprise to see more and more Irish female and male golfers competing at the top echelons of the sport in the years to come. 

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