Tee to green: ‘Old boys’ rake in the cash but payback comes in different currency for GUI
RORY McIlroy's multi-million euro contract with Nike underlines the success of Ireland's graduates from the Golfing Union of Ireland system.
Nobody can deny that the young maestro's talent and dedication – plus the massive level of support from his parents Gerry and Rosie – is central to the success of two-time Major winner McIlroy.
However, it's also relevant that the GUI structure which provided local, provincial, national and international competition was the route to eventual stardom for McIlroy, as it was for Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and other top Irish pros such as Peter Lawrie, Michael Hoey and Gareth Maybin.
And, boy, has it paid off for the Tour pros.
Of the top 12 golfers from Britain and Ireland listed in the 2012 'Sunday Times Sport Rich List' four of them were Irish – Harrington (£33m/€39.75m), Clarke (£15m/€18.067m), McDowell (£12m/€14.452m) and McIlroy £11m/€13.249m.
McIlroy's entry for this year will be considerably enhanced with the estimated €18.6m he'll receive from Nike as part of his 10-year deal with the company.
Imagine how a percentage of those earnings alone would benefit the GUI if they operated a payback system, as do some continental countries, but that's not going to happen in Ireland.
GUI general secretary Pat Finn stressed that the good relationships between the Union and their 'old boys' are more important than money, no matter how much the pros earn.
He was aware of donations made to the English Golf Union and Swedish Federation by Paul Casey and Caroline Hedwall respectively in 2011.
Casey donated his £20,000 appearance fee to the EGU and Hedwall gave £50,000 of her £100,000 winnings to boost golf development of young female talent in Sweden from their involvement with Power Play Golf.
In Irish terms, Finn is happy that the GUI should continue its work without any financial input from the professionals. He feels the Union derives plenty of benefit from its relationship with the stars.
"There's a massive amount of goodwill between the GUI and the Tour players. They often meet with our panels and they're very good with their time whenever we ask them. It's difficult to create a constructive argument in favour of players giving back some of their earnings.
"We don't have a need for any additional income streams other than our subscriptions through our club members, the Sports Council and our sponsors.
"There is also a reality to our relationship with, for example, Rory. He comes through our system; he has opportunities in our elite amateur programme; he goes to events around the world as part of GUI squads.
"In turn, we (the Union) benefit from his involvement.
"The direct relationship is just that; it exists at the time and then he moves on.
"We wouldn't say there should be additional benefits accruing to the Union because Rory's very successful. We are very happy with the goodwill and relationships we have with all the professionals who came through our system."
This year the GUI will send players to 30 international events and at home, the Union and its Branches will stage 60 championships.
First up for the travelling Irish are Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock) and Brian Casey (Headfort), who play in the South American Amateur Individual championship from today to Saturday in Bogota, Colombia.
Next month (February 6-9) Harry Diamond (Belvoir Park), Richard O'Donovan (Lucan), Chris Selfridge (Moyola Park) and Reeve Whitson (Mourne) will play in the 10 Nations Cup at Kingswood CC, George, South Africa.
Gavin Moynihan, the Irish Amateur Open champion from The Island GC, joins Alex Gleeson (Castle), Eddie McCormack (Galway) and Pat Murray of Limerick in the Portuguese Open championship at Montado GC near Lisbon from February 13-16.
A six-man team will compete in the Spanish Amateur Open championship and Nations Cup at La Manga from February 27 to March 3. The team is: Rory McNamara (Headfort), Harry Diamond (Belvoir Park), Richard O'Donovan (Lucan), Chris Selfridge (Moyola Park), Simon Ward (Co Louth), and Reeve Whitson (Mourne).