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A Quick 18 with Ian Kearney: 'There is nothing like seeing the players you coach doing well'

Dromoland Castle’s PGA professional on his passion for the Co Clare venue and the game he loves


Ian Kearney

Ian Kearney

Aideen walsh

Aideen walsh


Ian Kearney

Club: Dromoland Castle

Mayo native Ian Kearney is steeped in golf and this week’s KPMG Women’s Irish Open is like Christmas time for Dromoland Castle’s PGA professional as Leona Maguire and Europe’s top professionals take on the revamped Ron Kirby and JB Carr design in Co Clare.

The course and hotel have received a multi-million euro upgrade over the past few years and Kearney, who learned the game at lovely Claremorris Golf Club, is hugely proud of what’s been achieved.

He’s immensely passionate about teaching and playing the game, and that enthusiasm comes through whether he’s talking about the many changes that have been made to Dromoland Castle, the tactical plans of his star pupil Aideen Walsh this week, or his dream fourball.

1 How’s your golf?

Unfortunately, I don’t play as much as I used to. I try and keep my skills up. I coach the national Under 16 team and run a lot of the coaching in the western region for Golf Ireland. So I try and get out and play every week with my members and good players. I still love getting out to play, but we have a nine-week-old baby girl, Georgie, so she is taking up a lot of time too. I’ve been in Dromoland Castle for four years and it’s been a fascinating project with the board putting a lot of money into the hotel and the golf course. I really think the golf experience is right up there now with the castle.

2 How did you get started in the game?

My Dad was captain of Claremorris Golf Club and all my brothers play. My brother David is a golf professional and all my brothers play off low single figures. So I was born into it. One of my first memories is putting a golf ball through the back window at home. I don’t think anyone thought I would make contact.

3 Choose your weapon….Driver or putter? And why?

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I’d say the driver but putting is something I’d be passionate about. I’ve been involved in some putting companies and there’s nothing like rolling in a few putts.

4 Links or parkland? Why?

I have to say parkland for the week that’s in it, especially with an estate like Dromoland Castle. There is so much history here and it’s such a beautiful estate. But we are fortunate in this part of the world. You only have to go out to Lahinch and Doonbeg and you have phenomenal links courses.

5 When were you happiest on the golf course?

I have lots of great memories of playing as a boy. Too many to pick one. But I suppose winning my first professional event on the Irish PGA circuit after only six or seven starts was a phenomenal achievement and then as a coach, there is nothing like seeing the players you coach doing well, not only as the national Under 16 coach and regional coach but also our players here from the Fred Daly team to the girls’ team. It’s great to see their love for the game and see them develop. We are very lucky we have had a huge increase in members here, so to see a member have a personal best or win a competition is incredibly rewarding. I coach Aideen Walsh (left), who is playing this week and I’m looking forward to seeing her compete against the best in the continent.

6 Who’s your sporting hero?

Golf swing-wise, it would have been someone like Nick Faldo. And my namesake Ian Woosnam. And the European Ryder Cup heroes were always up there too. There were also multiple sporting heroes from Mayo.

7 Name someone in your business you especially admired starting out.

My brother David was the ILGU High-Performance Director for 20 years and there are lots of great people that would have helped him along the way that helped me too. I’ve been lucky to be around high-performing people throughout my career. I spent 10 great years in Doonbeg, too, and people like Brian Shaw there were a great help to me.

8 What’s your golfing ambition? Do you have one?

Like every other golf professional in the country, my ambition is to play more. Is there a pro in the country who doesn’t say that?

9 Name your dream fourball (they don’t have to be golfers). And name the venue.

My Dad and my brothers. I’d need two fourballs to get everyone out. Or two threeballs. And we’d probably play back home in Claremorris and have a fun family game.

10 If you could change something about the PGA, what would it be?

I appreciate all the work they are trying to do to help pros to specialise in certain parts of the industry and certain roles. The club professional’s role is very complex, though, and requires expertise in many areas, especially people skills. We can’t lose sight of that.

11 If I gave you a mulligan in your career, what would it be?

I would say I have been incredibly lucky to work with fantastic people. So there is no role I never enjoyed. As my Mum said, what’s for you won’t go by you and long may that continue.

12 If you had just one more round to play, where would it be? Don’t say Augusta National unless you absolutely must.

It would be between going home to Claremorris or the Old Course at St Andrews. There is nowhere in golf that makes you feel like that on the first tee or 18th green.

13 What’s your favourite par three in Dromoland Castle?

The seventh. It’s a stunning par-three and it’s tricky because you are hitting a short to medium iron off an elevated, treelined tee box where you generally won’t feel the wind. You really have to control your trajectory off that tee. You have to have excellent distance control.

14 If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Doesn’t have to be about golf.

Overthinking or talking too much!

15 What’s your most treasured possession? First thing you’d save if there was a fire (after family, of course).

Family comes first, so after that, the rest can always be replaced.

16 If you could change something about your golf, what would it be?

Like every member who comes to be, I’d love to have another 50 yards off the tee. And the short game. Nobody ever complained about hitting it too close.

17 Who’s your favourite golfer of all time? Why?

Luke Donald. Great swing, great short game, was not a long hitter but an all-round class player and former world number one.

18 What’s your idea of perfect happiness?

Good times with a happy and healthy family and friends.

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