Seamus Power’s track record with Lahinch and the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open is mixed, but the PGA Tour professional was still thrilled to receive his invitation to return home and play this week.
The West Waterford man’s first visit to the European Tour event, as a marshal, came at Fota Island in 2001 and resulted in a filthy look from that year’s eventual champion Colin Montgomerie. While Power’s playing debut as a rookie pro made for a nerve-wracking introduction to elite-level golf.
Now 31, Power returns from the United States to his native Munster a more confident, complete professional with a couple of PGA Tour top-10 finishes this season.
And despite a less-than-stellar return from his amateur days in Lahinch at the South of Ireland Championship, no-one will be happier than the West Waterford man when he tees it up at the iconic links this week thanks to an invitation from tournament sponsors Dubai Duty Free through event host Paul McGinley.
“I played it last summer and that was the first I heard there was a chance it was going to be there,” Power said. “They were very, very excited about it. Lahinch is fantastic, an absolutely great course. I always liked it and I always felt I played okay there, even though I didn’t have much luck in the South.
“It was funny, Paul McGinley’s brother (Michael) even knocked me out of the South one year and he was saying, ‘I am not sure I can give you a spot if my brother can knock you out’.
“But I am glad it worked out. Lahinch is a great town and I know a lot of people up there and I know a lot of people are going to come up and watch. It’s just going to be a fantastic week.”
Power has come a long way from his initial Irish Open experience as a hole marshal at Fota Island in 2001 as West Waterford sent down a team of volunteers to the East Cork course.
“It was great. I was only getting into golf at that stage and I loved playing it and stuff. But I wouldn’t have known who people were and even that week I remember watching Westwood and Montgomerie. It was kinda cool. It was my first exposure to top-level golf and I always remember thinking it was something I’d love to do and go back and play myself.
“It was gas too. I was only 12 or 13 and Monty was walking into his shot and I dropped something on the ground behind him and I did not get the most friendly look from Monty. But it was fantastic and a great memory.
“I don’t know if you glamourise these things in your mind but I just remember the weather was perfect and the course was in amazing condition and when you are young, I can remember certain little things. I was amazed the guys would use a brand new wooden tee and leave it in the ground after they hit. I’d think, jeez, that’s very different. I’d have been using a plastic tee for four weeks in a row.
“It was a fun experience and my first exposure to something like that. I didn’t grow up around golf or anything like that so it was something I’d never seen before. I remember it giving me motivation at that age as something you’d love to do — play in front of crowds and do that sort of stuff.
“So to be going back to an Irish Open for the first time since 2013, with much more experience and feeling like I have a chance to really get into contention and maybe even win the tournament is a different feeling than the last couple of times.”
The Olympian, an Ireland team-mate of Pádraig Harrington’s on golf’s reintroduction at the 2016 Rio Summer Games, will be hoping his homecoming sparks a return to form after a third missed cut in his last four PGA Tour starts, including an early exit in Detroit last Friday at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. It has seen him slip back into a battle to make the end of season FedEx Cup play-offs as he teeters on the top-125 cutline in the current standings.
Yet Power also knows that a strong week at Lahinch could not only reignite his US campaign but also catapult him into this month’s Open Championship, also on home soil at Royal Portrush in two weeks.
There will be three places on offer at the Irish Open and grabbing one of them in front of a big travelling contingent from West Waterford would make the last month’s disappointment disappear at a stroke.
“Absolutely. I mean, whatever way you get in it would be fantastic but if I had the opportunity to play two tournaments in Ireland in three weeks, you know, that’s something I might never get a chance to do again, almost. So it would be really special.
“So The Open would be an added cherry, the Irish Open is really something.”