We waste so much energy down on ourselves, on those who represent us, on what we have to offer the world. Economically, we’ve never had it so good, yet to listen to all the doom and gloom merchants, you’d swear we were still in dark depression; on the sporting front, our soccer team sits atop its World Cup group, two of our provincial rugby teams are in the quarter-finals of the European Cup, our international team has played themselves to the cusp of a Grand Slam, and yet we’re almost paralysed by the fear factor, a nation waiting for the inevitable crash.
Why? We had three golfers on the European Ryder Cup team that walloped the Americans last year, have hopes of a fourth when the event comes to Ireland next year, yet do we expect to have an Irish major winner any time soon? Do we heck.
Last Friday evening, I was in the company of Tom Kane, a New Yorker, and the contrast between the way he, as a typical American, sees the world, and the way we see it, couldn’t have been more stark. I’m speaking very generally here, but sometimes you have to. Where Americans see possibilities, we see pitfalls; where they’re psyching themselves up for victory, we’re preparing for failure.
Just over 15 years ago, Tom Kane looked at Adare Manor and saw possibilities. More than any of the millions it eventually cost, he invested himself, his ambition, intuition and conviction, in what became a magnificent golf course, one to rank with any parkland test anywhere.
Designed by Robert Trent Jones, wrapped around the broad, salmon- rich Maigue River, it has everything that any golfer, from the highest earner in the elite paid ranks to the highest handicapper in the legions of the amateur, could wish for. Five years in the making, it recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of its opening, and it is now a national treasure.
“Ignore my accent, where I’m from,” says Tom Kane.
“This is an Irish facility, an Irish golf course and resort, with nearly 80% of our business coming from the Irish market.” (Not surprising, given the €65 green fee available throughout the off-season, and after 3pm during the summer).
With due respect Tom, let’s not ignore the accent or its origin. There are aspects of America and Americans (again, speaking very generally) that annoy me, but one thing I wish we had a lot more of is their gung-ho approach to life, to life’s challenges and problems.
What Tom Kane has created in Adare, we can create elsewhere with the right attitude. By the way, I don’t want to give the impression that the Irish are incapable of such vision. Just in the Munster region alone, in the last couple of decades, we have seen new and outstanding courses in The Old Head in Kinsale, Fota Island in Cork and the Ring of Kerry in Kenmare, while the likes of Ballybunion, Lahinch, Killarney, Tralee and Waterville have all upgraded their facilities.
But the people behind these projects are not typical of the Irish attitude, while Tom Kane IS typical of America.
Here’s the way it is, lads. Ireland can, and will, qualify for the World Cup; given the breaks, we can also win it. In rugby, if it comes down to talent, to the best team, Ireland can win its second ever Grand Slam, its first since 1948, because man-for-man, pound-for-pound, we are the best side. Leinster or Munster can win the Heineken Cup, again, for the reasons outlined above. An Irish player, be it Harrington, Clarke, McDowell or McGinley, even Lawrie, can win a golf major.
If we could only see it, if we could only recognise it, these are the best of times, in this little nation of ours.
By the way, the next time you’re planning a golfing trip with the lads, you could do an awful lot worse than look up the special offers in your own area. You probably will get better weather, but you will not get better golf or better craic in Spain, Portugal, or any of the other sun-spots.
Paradise is here.