Kate Whyte switches codes in bid for All-Ireland success

Considering the amount of travel involved, she could be living the life of a professional. When it comes to golf, Kate Whyte is more than happy to remain amateur. 

Kate Whyte switches codes in bid for All-Ireland success

This week Whyte will take some time away from her day job with Hambric Sports to focus on Lucan’s bid for All-Ireland success at the AIG Senior Foursomes in Malone.

“I don’t get to watch a lot of golf when I’m working so it makes me hungry to get out and play,” says Whyte.

The 22-year-old Dubliner has been working as a player executive for more than a year. After completing her studies at Maynooth University last year, she took a position with Hambric, an international sports agency that has Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Thorbjorn Olesen, and Waterford’s Gary Hurley on their books. Whyte is a frequent flyer, taking in 20 tournaments a year. In between trips to Turkey, Kazakhstan, and South Africa, she’s managed to keep her own game pretty sharp.

Playing off three, she will partner Sandra McCaffrey — mother of Dublin hurler Johnny — for Lucan’s All-Ireland semi-final against Roscommon. A generation separates them but golf brings them together.

McCaffrey is responsible for Whyte’s introduction to the game.

“I’ve known Sandra since about the time I first learned to walk,” says Whyte. “She got me into Lucan Golf Club.” When Whyte won an All-Ireland playing pitch and putt, McCaffrey was quick to recognise the talent. In Whyte’s case, it’s not the only one.

Camogie remains her deepest sporting love, having played five years with the Dublin seniors. Because of work commitments, she had to sit out this season, which was a pity. Under David Herity’s watch, Dublin made major progress in 2016, reaching the All-Ireland semi-finals, where they lost out to then All-Ireland champions Kilkenny.

A member of the goalkeeping class, Whyte would surely have thrived under Herity’s watch. Work is foremost now so her county career has had to take a backseat.

Injury — medial ligament damage in her left knee — conspired against her in any event. Her golf is unaffected but Whyte has had to sit out the club campaign with Lucan Sarsfields. “It’s killing me at the moment not being able to play,” she admits. “I miss the adrenalin. I’m a really competitive person.”

Sport has nurtured those competitive instincts: “I love sport. Mam and dad were always very encouraging. I love playing in front of them.”

And were it not for her quick-thinking parents, Whyte might not be fit to contemplate these journeys anymore. Three years have passed since she was suddenly struck down with bacterial meningitis. Flu-like symptoms were the first signs of trouble except something far more sinister was at play. Her temperature had soared into the mid-40s and when she tried to swallow a painkiller, her neck refused to bend.

Acting on instinct, her parents headed for the hospital. In that moment, they had saved their daughter’s life.

“I nearly died,” Whyte reflects. “Had I not gone to hospital immediately I wouldn’t be here at all now.”

Understandably, life feels precious: “You’re nearly oblivious to sicknesses and illnesses when you’re younger. You can take life for granted.”

Luckily for Whyte, there have been no lingering effects. And even if her left knee still causes grief, there is an upside. “Not playing camogie has helped my golf,” she acknowledges.

On a typical working week, she scans the tournament leaderboards hoping to spy a Hambric player close to the top. This weekend will be no different, it’s just that she’ll get to feel what it’s like to have sporting destiny in her own hands again.

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