The last couple of days have been a real trip down memory lane for me, and a fun one I must admit! After landing on the runway in Dublin on Saturday afternoon we went straight to Headfort golf club in Kells, Co meath for a practice round, and to prepare for an upcoming tournament. Headfort is a club very close to where I grew up and it was a club that I played regularly as a junior in both inter club and schools matches. There are two courses at Headfort, the old and the new. On this occasion we were playing “The New Course” which is a stunning, tree lined championship golf course with water on almost every hole.
As we teed off there was a couple of things that occurred to me, first of all I realised just how lucky I was to grow up playing golf courses like this regularly, and secondly, bearing in mind that I have not played this golf course in 7 or 8 years, it really surprised me about how much I remembered the management of the golf course.
The other interesting thing about coming back home was also the realisation of just how sheltered we are in Dubai, you really do forget just how difficult conditions can become in Ireland. Now don’t get me wrong, this was not a “bad” day by any stretch (as far as Ireland goes), but to put it in perspective there was about a one club wind which tends to swirl quite a bit around this golf course because of the exceptionally tall trees that surround it and as we began the round there was no rain but it lightly drizzled later on in the day and the rain jacket was on and off constantly…. As I said, not a bad day at all! But having not experienced any real wind in over a year combined with actually having to wear a jacket it definitely felt odd, and there was far more thought going into each shot compared to my normal rounds. All in all I felt happy, I had played reasonable throughout the round (even though we were hammered in the four ball match we had) and I was feeling pretty good about the upcoming tournament.
Where it all Began
Sunday came and there was nothing scheduled golf wise for me, however I could not resist the temptation to go back to where it all began. No more than 50 yards away from my house is Beechmount pitch and putt, this is where I first picked up a golf club and also where my addiction began!! I decided it would fun to bring my 11 year old brother for a game as he had never played before. After a quick two minute intro to how to hold the club, I just let him rip and play with me. It was interesting watching him learn with a minimum amount of instruction, I think as coaches sometimes we need to recognise that you do not need to give kids, or anyone for that matter, a lot of Information in order for them to get really improve. He watched, he tried and he got better, I gave him as little as possible and towards the end of our game he was comfortably making 4’s and 5’s on most holes with relatively good contact.
That afternoon I decided to do some final prep for the tournament, and again went to another local golf course which was Royal Tara Golf Club, and again this is another fantastic parkland which I grew up playing regularly. I was a member in Royal tara for a couple of years as a junior, and played for them in a few junior inter club events as well. The club itself is over a century old, tree lined, mature with some fantastic greens and several multi level tiered greens which you have to be pinpoint with your distance control to give you any chance of holing some putts. The plan was to play 9 holes and just hit a few different clubs from the tee, also try to get used to the difference in how the greens reacted to chip and pitch shots (the greens in Ireland are worlds apart from Dubai, probably for my style of pitching a lot easier if anything!! The ball does not check as much on the first bounce, and it rolls far more). As I moved my way through the yellow nine (the third 9 at Royal Tara), I stood and looked in amazement at the course, I could not believe how good the golf course was, and also how much I took the place for granted as a kid growing up. Tight demanding tee shots, playing different clubs from every tee, and having to think about where the approach lands far more than I would in Dubai. All in all prep was good, tee shots were extremely solid as were the iron shots and I quickly followed 9 holes with 20 minutes putting practice afterwards. I felt ready and excited to go!
1st Tee Nerves
Tournament day we showed up to Headfort Golf club and it genuinely could not have been a better day to play! The course itself looked outstanding, and I was really looking forward to having one of my best friends on the bag for the day. As I walked down to warm up, many of the usual faces from the Irish region were there, mixed in among a series of new ones as well. I was paired with two friendly faces and long-time friends Bernard Quigley and Ciaran Lavery which was great, and all in all was feeling very calm prior to play. As the 9.50 group teed off we headed for the first tee. As I addressed the ball ready to hit one tight up the left side of the dog leg I must admit I started to get the first tee nerves (not something I have every really worried about!!), maybe it was the being back in my home region, or the fact that it was my first real tournament in over 6 years, but I felt it!! Hands a little bit shakey, thoughts of “where not to hit” it all crept in, and sure enough BLOCK RIGHT, into the unknown! But at least it was away! One provisional ball later (striped up the middle I must add) and I was luckily able to find my original ball, all be it semi buried in the long (long) stuff up the right. Given the lie and the 20ft trees in front of me all I could do was advance the ball 80 or 90 yards, followed by a solid wedge and a good putt to somehow scrap a par.
That par save on the first really settled me down and luckily the ball striking improved although it seen glimmers of brilliance and often moments of silliness throughout the round. My greens in regulation was relatively low compared to my recent play (all be it casual play), however my chipping and putting really saved me with a very steady chipping performance and some really nice putts. After birdieing the par 5 16th, a solid 6 iron into 17 gave me an outside opportunity for birdie, however 3 putts later and I was walking off the 17th 1 shot worse that when I started it. Another disappointing short putt on 18 meant I finished 3 over par (75) and tied for 21st place.
All in all I was quite happy with my performance, a gritty round that I never gave up on, however some work required before I head to Gleneagles next week.
Ireland…. We do not realise how lucky we are. Do not take these amazing golf courses for granted! Play as many of the courses close to you as possible, and enjoy them!
Small beginnings means nothing, you can go anywhere if you put your mind to it… And its always nice to look back on where it began!
Use your preparation time wisely
Everyone gets nervous! It’s not how nervous you feel, it all about how you deal with it that counts