Simon Lewis: Inside Golf

McIlroy turns to dad for masterclass

Rory McIlroy will enlist the help of his father ahead of the Masters by making him a practice round playing partner at Augusta National.

Gerry McIlroy has been to the Masters, the opening major of the season, ever since son Rory made his debut on the Georgia golfing gem in 2009, when he finished tied for 20th.

And as interest intensifies ahead of the world number one’s quest to become just the sixth player to have won all four Majors, McIlroy believes the best preparation will be walking the ‘Cathedral in the Pines’ with the person who was instrumental in first putting a golf club in his then two-year old hands.

“My dad is one of my closest friends so he and I are going to go to Augusta National in the weeks before the Masters when it is nice and quiet and play a round,” McIlroy said. “He’s never played the course so it’s going to be very special for him but also for me to be able to walk the fairways, showing him all the lines off the tee and where to expect the putts to break and so on.

“I am excited what lays ahead for me when I tee up in the Masters but it is still a long way away in terms of my playing schedule this year.”

McIlroy, who played with his dad in the Abu Dhabi Invitational Pro-Am Fourball last Sunday, intends to pick up where he left off last year with the Majors as he aims to join the career grand slam club members Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods by winning his first Masters this April.

“When I do go to Augusta I will be treating it like I want to be starting off the first Major of the New Year how I ended last year, by winning the Open Championship and the PGA Championship,” McIlroy said. “But then I also don’t want to put too much pressure on myself, given the fact that I can achieve something special this year. It’s why I’m arranging for my dad and myself to play Augusta sometime in March for a couple of days so I know it will be a very relaxed environment, and will try and treat it as a normal practice round I would play heading into any tournament.”

McIlroy has stayed on in the UAE after Saturday’s runner-up finish in Abu Dhabi and will look to end the European Tour Desert Swing with a victory in this week’s Dubai Desert Classic, starting Thursday. He returns to the US for his opening PGA Tour event, the Honda Classic, starting February 26 in Florida.

“I won my first European Tour title in Dubai in 2009 and it would be really nice to then head back to the States with a win, especially after going so close last fortnight in Abu Dhabi,” he said. “But as long as I put in another good performance that is all that matters, even though it’d be nice to pick up trophies every week.”

ILGU in search for young talent

The search for fresh golfing talent is as important as ever and the Irish Ladies Golf Union is continuing its search for the next Stephanie Meadow by inviting all girls under 12 years (born in or after 2003) to attend free taster sessions with ILGU Development Coaches at centres across the country next month. The ILGU says girls do not need any previous experience of golf and that equipment will be available during the Taster Sessions. Each of the 12 venues across the island of Ireland has a capacity for 60 places which will be allocated on a first come, first served basis with all girls interested in the taster sessions asked to register before Friday, February 6 via www.ilgu.ie. The sessions begin in Mayo at Castlebar Driving Range on Sunday February 15 and take in Kildare, Dublin South, Dublin West and Dublin North, Laois, Wexford, Kerry, Sligo, Cork and Antrim, concluding in Armagh on March 1. The sessions last 50 minutes and will number no more than 12 girls in each, with those wishing to play and learn more offered further opportunities with the ILGU development coach. Those further coaching groups will consist of a maximum of eight girls, who will receive five hours of coaching (€35) over the months of March and April, upon completion of which, the ILGU says it will endeavour to link girls who are not already a member of a club with a local ILGU affiliated Club.

Cork Golf Club to the fore once again

Cork Golf Club has enjoyed the perfect start to 2015 after finding themselves among the recipients of ‘Golfers’ Guide to Ireland’ awards last week.

The Little Island course, designed by the legendary Alister MacKenzie, picked up the Best Parkland Course in Munster award for the third time in four years as golf’s great and good gathered at Druids Glen GC in Wicklow for the launch of the annual publication.

Dun Laoghaire, host venue for the 2016 Curtis Cup, and Royal Co. Down, this year’s Irish Open venue, scooped the overall awards for best parkland and links courses respectively with the regional awards, presented by Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD, equally coveted.

“It’s a brilliant award and a welcome start to the New Year,” said Cork GC general manager Matt Sands, who added a stellar field was being assembled for its annual staging of the Munster Strokeplay Championship on the May Bank Holiday weekend. Cork GC’s recognition should also stir interest in the limited number of vacancies for membership that have become available as Sands reported a hint of growing optimism for the industry after years of economic downturn in the country.

Mary Mitchell O’Connor told the more than 100 guests at the event that there was clear evidence of real signs of repair and improvement in the economy and that would be reflected in the golf industry.

Aside from Cork, the provincial parkland winners were Headfort (Leinster), Belvoir Park (Ulster) and Ballinrobe (Connacht) while the links celebrating success were County Louth (Leinster), Royal Portrush (Ulster), Enniscrone (Connacht) and Waterville (Munster). Druids Glen picked up the overall best resort award with the provincial best resort winners numbering Fota Island (Munster), Rosapenna (West/North West), Carton House (Leinster) and Hilton Templepatrick (Ulster).


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