Sport Golf

Thursday 20 July 2017

Ready to hit max power

Seamus Power enjoyed a stellar 2016, earning a PGA card, a Web.com win but he is most proud of his Olympic appearance. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Seamus Power enjoyed a stellar 2016, earning a PGA card, a Web.com win but he is most proud of his Olympic appearance. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Barry Lennon

Pat Murphy remembers the first time Seamus Power picked up a seven-iron on West Waterford Golf Club's practice ground.

"My abiding memory was that he was smallish and fairly chubby. He didn't show a mighty interest at all," said the club stalwart and founding captain.

Ireland team from the 2006 Home Internationals.
Ireland team from the 2006 Home Internationals.

After several strokes, though, Murphy realised he had something special in this 12-year-old with a natural feel for the game.

Under Murphy's watchful eye, Power started his long journey which led him to a PGA Tour card, a first Irish win on the Web.com Tour and an Olympic spot last year.

Along this journey, though, 'Power cut' rather than 'Power surge' has been a more frequent headline as the 29-year-old failed to win his full Tour card on four consecutive years in the US.

The Dungarvan club supported him financially along the way as they did when he first moved to East Tennessee State to take up a scholarship.

"Seamus left school and his dad said to me, 'Seamus is anxious to go to America, what do you think?'," Murphy recalls.

"Everybody thought it would be nicer if he stayed at home at the time. I couldn't say to Seamus' father where to go. It could have been the wrong decision.

"It's well worth it now because when he comes back there's a buzz. All the schools and clubs want him in."

Power knows the value of his "second home at West Waterford" having tragically lost his mother after a short illness when he was eight.

His father Ned took up a night-time job in Clonmel's Boston Scientific alongside running a cattle and sheep farm to provide for Seamus and twin brothers Jack and Willie.

"Taking on more work wasn't just for sport but it allowed us travel and play. Looking back, I don't know how he did it. I'm sure it wasn't easy," Power reflects.

The village of Touraneena - just north of Dungarvan - chipped in to help Ned and it was family friends who introduced Seamus to golf, the club and Pat. Power still consults Murphy, and his house is often the first one he visits when he steps off the plane from Charlotte - something his old coach looks forward to.

"I sometimes feel very emotional about it (Power's success) because it's been a fairytale ride. I think his mammy is looking down on him. I honestly think there's a more powerful force at work there. I'm not that kind but I think there really is," Murphy says.

*****

Gary Hurley regrets his decision to choose golf when he sees schoolmates Colin Dunford and Patrick Curran's hurling success on the Waterford senior and U-21 panels. But before they made waves, Power inspired the 23-year-old to take up professional golf rather than hurling.

"I was 12 and caddying for the club in an Irish junior foursomes and I remember Seamus was 18 at time after winning the Irish Youth (Championships) he was a pretty big prospect," Hurley recalls.

"Seeing how well he was able to play back then inspired me to do better. I'd start copying stuff he'd do."

Power's success has helped West Waterford grow - the 24-year-old club boasts two professional golfers in hurling heartland.

Power is the star of the club's youth programme which began when other clubs were attracting adult members for their all-important subscriptions.

"It has a pied-piper effect because all the mammies and daddies want their youngsters in West Waterford because they think, 'if you send them there, they'll automatically be good golfers'," says Murphy.

"Dungarvan isn't exactly the biggest town and we were competing with two other golf courses. It was all hurling and football. Most of the people around us knew nothing about golf."

Power also played hurling growing up, but unlike Hurley doesn't regret his decision to pick golf.

"If you play hurling you might get a knock and if you play golf the next day, your fingers might be swollen and you can't grip the club properly," Power says. "I also saw myself playing golf for longer so I said I'd give it a go."

Before winning three Irish Youth Championships (only the second player to do so), he claimed bronze in the racquetball World Championships in Los Angeles, then aged ten.

"I loved it. When I was 12, I was in the top ten in the world," he says. "But it was again one of those things. You can't do everything, you'd drive yourself nuts."

*****

Picking his highlight from a stellar 2016 is easy for Power.

"The win (at the United Leasing & Finance Championship) was obviously big for me too but you can always win tournaments. The Olympics is something you only do once or twice in your life," he says.

"This was more of a team thing, where you're pulling together - a different vibe. Padraig (Harrington) said if he didn't win on the Sunday evening, he hoped I would."

He admits he pestered both Harrington and Ireland captain Paul McGinley with questions, and on his return home last September he once more visited Murphy.

"He told me Harrington and himself put a few quid on a final practice round. Seamus played great golf that day and there was Harrington struggling along behind," Murphy says.

"On the last Harrington, holes a long putt from the other end of the green to win the money and says, 'that'll be a $100 Seamus' and he took it from him and he said, 'Seamus when you're out in this world, you're on your own. You have to be tough.'

Power tees off in the Sony Open in Hawaii today, his first PGA tournament of the year. Harrington's advice will be to the forefront of his mind.

Sony Open, Live, Sky Sports 4, midnight

Indo Sport

Promoted articles

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport