Sport Golf

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Billy Keane: Open to mature reflection

Hushed Killarney tones allow time for pondering life, the universe and Darby's '82 'push'

Billy Keane

Billy Keane

Golfers lope. There's no frantic rushing around like the recently departed Hurricane, probably a legacy from the days when he had to put money in a meter to keep the lights on over the table.

Padraig Harrington is a tall, slim, graceful man. He takes his time almost as if he had a theodolite to survey every angle and gradient. The '3' Irish Open is no place for darting about. It is an arena for the type of mature reflection you get in no other sport.

Harrington is back in form. He sank a putt on 15 from way off. The ball hit the back of the hole, bobbed up like a meerkat before vanishing into the one-roomed warren. The cheer sent the deer high up into the Purple Mountain on the day when we wore purple to support Make--A--Wish.

Gentleman Matt Keane is a brother of the great Moss. Matt is a shush man. He held up a sign that read shhhh and quiet please when the golfers were putting on the greens.

Sometimes, Thomond Park kickers will tell you, silence is worse than the booing. Graeme McDowell three-putted from five feet on Thursday. The crowd were as quiet as the Dail in August but our US Open champion lost concentration for about a minute in his round of five hours.

Harrington was distracted by a radio interview which was broadcast from the tented village yesterday morning. I hope he hadn't invested any money with the bank they were on about.

There are breaks in play when you can chat. We got to talking with a fine fit man who was following Shane Lowry. He told us a mouse was fried to death in the back of his cooker.

He had better watch out. If John Gormley hears about the incineration, the cooker might well go the way of the Ward Union hunt.

"Thank God", said Frank Higgins, "it was only 11 months old." And we wondered if it was it the cooker or the mouse he was talking about. Frank was lucky the mouse struck within the 12-month warranty. Frank wasn't so lucky in 1961 when he captained Offaly against Down in the All-Ireland final before the biggest final crowd ever.

"We hardly got together at all before the game," said Frank. You could see from his earnest, open face that the hurt was still there after 50 years.

The golfers are meticulous in their preparations and the caddies are stats men, psychologists and beasts of burden.


There was one caddy who laboured under a massive weight. He wasn't getting any younger. It was hot on Thursday and he reminded us of one of those bony donkeys carrying a double creel out of the bog. Not that we're comparing caddies to donkeys. It's only when you get up close you see the input they make into every shot.

Golf is tough when you have to make a living out of it. A salesman told me one time that he had a nice life until they brought in computers. "In one second the whole year's work is there in front of you," he said. "Either you make the targets or you don't."

In golf your score is there for all to see. At least if you play bad in football, the mother can always tell you that you played well.

We met Harrington's mother on the 18th. Mrs H is a lovely lady, lively and bright. She followed her son from his first puck-out yesterday at 8.0.

Damien McGrane was in the same group. He had his family around him too. That's another difference between the amateur and pro games. Most men like a break from their beloveds on the golf course.

McGrane is steady and will pick up a big cheque. He might even win but my money is on Harrington or Rory McIlroy, who is revving up as we write.

McIlroy drives a black Audi R8 convertible sports car. There's no back seat or boot. He has to carry the clubs in the front seat. Lads, get the HRT tablets. They're cheaper.

Lowry's car has a back seat. Plenty of room to bring the father and the uncles home from Clara matches. Shane is still living at home.

When he won the Irish Open last year he was asked if it would compare to his dad Brendan's All-Ireland win back in 1982 against Kerry.

"At least I didn't push someone in the back on the 18th green," he said, in a reference to that goal scored by Seamus Darby, when some say he nudged a Kerryman in the back.

I cornered my man when he finished his round yesterday. Young Shane did Clara proud. He shot a 65.

It was the just the two of us.

"Shane," I asked, "the truth".

He looked worried.

"The truth. Did the father ever tell you, in private like, father to son, that Darby pushed a Kerryman? Did he tell you it was a push?"

"That was no push," he replied. And then young Lowry got a fit of laughing as he ran off before I could interrogate him further.

Someone must have got to him.

Irish Independent

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