Inside Golf: Pádraig Harrington triggered Ireland ambition

Confidence is key. Just ask Pádraig Harrington, who shot four sub-par rounds in Italy last week and still finished a modest 33rd in the Italian Open.

On the face of it, this looks like an ordinary result for a player whose career is tapering off. But for Harrington, it may well be very significant as he battles to regain that unshakeable confidence that made him a three-time major winner.

“I have continued to work on playing with more confidence and I have to say that I like it,” he wrote to his Facebook followers before the event in Milan. “It is something that over time I have lost, but now that I have realised it and am aware of it, I can change it.

“I am working on it on the range and the golf course and making sure that I see the good in my shots rather than the negative.

“I feel so much better about myself and my golf when I do it.

“There was a time when Irish golfers at the highest level took a look around the range at a major and saw the likes of Norman, Ballesteros, Nicklaus, Watson and Faldo and thought, ‘They’re all here. I can’t win.”

But now, thanks to Harrington’s breakthrough season of 2007, the entire island of Ireland believes it can conquer the golfing world.

At least, that’s the feeling of Pat Finn, who was appointed the first CEO of the Golfing Union of Ireland last week in what is the first move towards the creation of one governing body for the game on the island of Ireland.

We’re riding the crest of a wave right now but Finn, in conjunction with his opposite number Sinead Heraty at the ILGU, is planning to make things even better over the next four years.

Given the success enjoyed by Irish players — amateur and professional — over the last seven years, you can make a strong case for Ireland as a golfing superpower, second only to the United States in proportion to its size.

Nine men’s major wins, two European men’s team championships, several Home Internationals wins and dozens of superb performances by Irish amateurs — Shane Lowry winning the Irish Open and Paul Dunne leading The Open are just two — culminating in the recent five-man presence in the Walker Cup, are all reasons to be optimistic.

Finn’s appointment came as a result of an open recruitment process, and is one of the key pillars in the implementation of the Union’s new Strategic Plan passed by the GUI’s Central Council earlier this year that includes a commitment to begin exploratory talks with the ILGU over the new body.

Finn is full of enthusiasm for what lies ahead but when asked what he felt was the catalyst for change in terms of success, he pointed to Harrington.

“The starting point I would put on it is the Irish Open in 2007 when Pádraig Harrington won in Adare Manor, followed up by him winning The Open Championship a few months later,” Finn says.

“In doing those two things, Pádraig broke two massive barriers — the first home winner of the Irish Open for 25 years and the first Irish major winner for 60 years. Everything followed from there.

“We won the European Men’s Team Championship soon after that Open Championship with Rory (McIlroy) and Shane (Lowry) on the team. Then we retained it the next year.

“We have had unbelievable amateur performances since then — Shane winning the 2009 Irish Open as an amateur, Leona Maguire as No 1 in the world, Stephanie Meadow finishing third in her first start as a professional golfer in the US Women’s Open.

“And then Paul Dunne at The Open and five players in the Walker Cup team.

“I genuinely believe Pádraig breaking down those barriers created the belief. I think that was the missing piece of the jigsaw and the success has just flowed since then and it hasn’t stopped. Success breeds success and the trickle-down effect has been tremendous “If someone born on this island wins the biggest accolade in golf, it has to feed right down through the system,” Finn says. “There is no question.

“I don’t think the young kids see what Pádraig, Rory, Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke and Shane have achieved as an added pressure. I think it makes them feel, they can do it too.”

Mighty Maynooth’s embarrassment of riches causes disquiet

Maynooth University captured its first AIG Senior Cup on Saturday with a 3-2 win over Knock.

That they could do it without fielding their first choice team — just one of the five had played in the Leinster final and the hero of the hour, Jake Whelan, was making his debut — is a source of controversy.

As colleges teams such as UCD, Dublin University or Maynooth University are clubs affiliated to the GUI, they are allowed to compete for inter-club competitions.

That the top players — Eugene Smith, Robin Dawson, Alan Lowry, Stuart Grehan and Sean Flanagan — were sent to Switzerland to compete in the European Universities Championship is clearly a case of international competition being regarded as more prestigious than any domestic tournament.

Maynooth University ended up second, 13 strokes behind Stirling University in the team competition but Dawson won the individual crown.

The Tramore and Faithlegg man carded rounds of 69, 71, 65 and 67 to win by a stroke on 12-under-par 272 from Stirling’s Craig Howie with Smith eighth on 289 and East and South of Ireland winner Grehan tied ninth on 290.

Confusion over Scotland’s win in Senior Home Internationals

Ireland’s Senior Men’s team is one of the best in the world but they may made need “diplomatic” intervention to add to their trophy haul.

We understand that moves are afoot to discover exactly why Scotland were awarded the Senior Men’s Home Internationals, which were played at Crowborough Beacon Golf Club.

Ireland, England and Scotland finished tied on match points, but the Scots were declared the winners as the current holders, which would appear to contradict the tournament conditions, which state that: “in the event of an overall tie on match points, the result will be determined in sequence upon: (i) Overall total points won; (ii) The individual match result of the tieing countries. Should there still be a tie on the number of points the higher placed team in the previous year’s meeting shall have preference.”

Ireland won more total points than any of their rivals and yet they walked away empty-handed.

The English Golf Union said in an email: “The result was discussed at the time, all four captains were consulted and the decision was made that Scotland were the winners.”

Scotland’s playing captain David Gardner, whose team defeated England 5-4 in the final match, said: “It was quite a surprise. We didn’t think we would win the tournament because we thought it was decided on points difference.”

Women’s turn to take centre stage

Last week’s AIG Cups and Shields national finals gave the men their chance to shine on the big stage.

This week it’s the turn of the women as they prepare for the AIG Ladies Cups and Shields at Knightsbrook.

Starting tomorrow, clubs will be battling for one of those precious six green pennants.

There are Junior and Senior Foursomes categories and the remaining four are singles matchplay, namely Junior Cup, Intermediate Cup, Minor Cup and Challenge Cup with golfers of all handicaps taking part.

The action begins with a quarter-final in the Intermediate Cup between Mullingar and Shandon Park before a Minor Cup quarter-final featuring Donaghadee and Co. Tipperary and a Senior Foursomes quarter-final that sees Roscommon take on Castle.

Lee Valley will face the winner of Mullingar-Shandon Park in the first Intermediate Cup semi-final with Loughrea talking on Malahide in the other.

Lee Valley are also involved in the Junior Foursomes, where they will face Bearna in Friday’s semi-finals, while in the Junior Cup, Limerick take on Athenry for the right to meet Naas/Enniscorthy or Lurgan.

As for the Challenge Cup, Mount Juliet meet Rossmore with the winners to take on East Cork/Co. Sligo or Elm Park.

AIG General Manager Declan O’Rourke said: “The sponsorship of the ILGU competitions strengthens our commitment to not only sport in Ireland, but women in sport in Ireland. “We are really looking forward to the finals in Knightsbrook.”

Moynihan ready to go

He might have missed the cut on his European Tour debut in Italy last week but Gavin Moynihan is looking forward to making his professional bow on home soil as the latest Irish Walker Cup star to be confirmed for next month’s Volopa Irish Challenge hosted by Mount Wolseley Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort.

The 21-year-old turned professional after helping Great Britain and Ireland to a resounding victory at Royal Lytham and St Annes, contributing towards two points out of a possible four.

And having already tasted victory on home soil this year with his second victory in the Irish Amateur Open at Royal Dublin, Moynihan’s hoping for further success on his return as a professional from October 8-11.

“I cannot wait to get my first taste of professional golf in Ireland,” Moynihan said.

“When choosing to turn professional after the Walker Cup, the Volopa Irish Challenge was an event that immediately jumped out at me.

“The Challenge Tour is a great place to test and improve my game, and to learn how to play professional competitive golf against some of the very best players around.

“I know there will be great support, especially for us Irish boys.

“We’ve got the most passionate golf fans in the world in Ireland and it’s very exciting to have the chance to play in front of them already.”

Moynihan, who has been supported by the Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI) since he was 13, joins his Walker Cup team-mates Jack Hume and Gary Hurley in a strong field as the Challenge Tour season draws to its conclusion with the stakes as high as ever.


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