Collins out to make a name for himself on the big stage

MICHAEL COLLINS shares a name with one of Ireland’s most iconic figures but now the Cork native is desperate to be remembered for achievements of his own.

And this week’s 3 Irish Open represents one of the biggest opportunities to further those ambitions. Collins, who qualified as a professional in 2004, finished eighth in the Irish Order of Merit to secure a spot here in Killarney. Although this 30-year-old Fore Ireland golfer is one of the lesser known lights playing Killeen this week, he is confident in his abilities.

“This is a big step up for me but I am looking forward to it,” he admitted.

“This is my first event and if I can get myself as relaxed as I can from the off, then you never know what will happen.

“I am down here since Monday and I am very familiar with the course. I have ideas of what is a realistic score this weekend but without being corny, I want to keep that to myself. The big thing is to do myself justice. I know what I am capable of. I am going to be a bit nervous, and I will have to deal with that and make sure to enjoy myself.

Collins who is attached to the Mallow Golf Range admitted: “Golf is a very individualistic game. I do a lot of teaching (on the range) to finance my way which is mostly on the Euro pro tour in England. At times it can be tough enough to keep motivating yourself. But, a week like this you are hitting balls up at the range and the next thing (Rory) McIlroy pulls up alongside you or Paul Broadhurst or Graeme McDowell. You start to think this is really where you want to be full time. That is a great motivator.

“After this week you just get up and have that extra bit of energy.”

His interest in golf stemmed from his national school days when his principal in Baltydaniel (near Mallow) was keen to get his son involved in the sport and asked Michael to go along with him.

The young pair went to Doneraile Golf Club but his young friend soon lost interest as Michael persevered. His love for the game grew from that early age, and ironically, one the first events his parents brought him to watch was the Irish Open in Killarney in 1992.

Michael graduated in 2000 from UCC with an BA degree in French and Geography. However his selection on the Irish U18 and U21 teams and a Senior Cup win with Mallow persuaded him to steer clear of a life in secondary school teaching.

“I went and did my apprenticeship with David Keating who was in Charleville Golf Club at the time.

“I started playing in the region and my results have improved all the time. I have a few personal bests this year, and it is things like that tell you, you should be there at the top. I am working as hard as I can teaching.”

Collins tees off at 8.30am in the company of Northern Ireland’s Gareth Maybin and Dubliner Peter Lawrie. And there will be plenty of familiar faces around Killarney to help settle the nerves.

“I know Gareth and his caddy David Jones, and my own caddy is fella Fore Ireland player Mark Staunton. I am delighted with that as we play quite a lot together and he knows my game pretty well. My wife Claire and baby Daniel will be back home for the week, so at least I will have a few die-hard supporters!

“Simon Thornton, Barrie Trainor, Gary Cullen, Pat Murray and a few more of my friends are playing here as well. So, I’m really looking forward to it all. This is another step forward and another box ticked. However, having said that, it’s not much good if you don’t make the best of your opportunities when they present themselves.”

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