Saturday 16 December 2017

How a GAA injury was what it took to get Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley in the swing

Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

PAUL McGinley is living proof that latecomers can finish first as he basks in the congratulations for carving out a special niche in our sporting history.

The biennial Ryder Cup, the greatest show in golf, will for the first time since the inaugural contest in 1927, have an Irishman as a captain.

This honour of leading Europe at Gleneagles in 2014 comes at the right time in his career for the 46-year-old who has played to above-average level for over 19 years without ever reaching the heights of greatness.

However, the drive and determination which have brought him four European Tour titles and earnings of over €12m continue to serve McGinley well.

McGinley is married to former Ladies European Tour professional Alison, and he enjoys family life with his wife and three children Niamh, Killian and Maia.

McGinley's journey to this landmark appointment has been something of a pilgrim's progress for this quintessential Dubliner whose original ambition was to play for the Dubs in an All-Ireland final. He was brought up in Rathfarnham and played with Ballyboden St Enda's GAA club, but his ambitions in Gaelic football were thwarted by a broken knee cap when he was 19.

At that stage McGinley played golf, but he did not take it too seriously.

Once he realised how much the injury affected his football, he took to the small ball game in earnest. By 1989, at the age of 23, he had won the Blue Riband of the amateur game, the Irish Close Championship.

A stint in San Diego University further honed his competitiveness and two years later he competed against the USA in the Walker Cup at Portmarnock, facing future PGA stars Phil Mickleson and David Duval.

McGinley turned professional in 1991 and won his playing rights on the European Tour via the Tour's Qualifying School.

In 2002 at The Belfry he stepped up to the plate in front of thousands and holed the winning putt from 10 feet to defeat the Americans in the Ryder Cup.

Two years later he and Harrington combined to put the partnership of Tiger Woods and Davis Love to the sword as they helped Europe to a fantastic away win. At the K Club in 2006, McGinley played his part in making it three in a row for Europe. The Dubliner cradles the sporting ethos of golf closely to his heart, but make no mistake, he's fiercely competitive and loves teamwork.

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