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A Quick 18 with Jim Gavin: His favourite course, sporting hero, and what he’d change about Gaelic Games

Jim Gavin knows he won’t get anything more out of golf than he puts in bar good company


Jim Gavin and Keith Duffy during the Legends Tour’s MCB Tour Championship in Mauritius in March. Getty Images

Jim Gavin and Keith Duffy during the Legends Tour’s MCB Tour Championship in Mauritius in March. Getty Images

Jim Gavin and Keith Duffy during the Legends Tour’s MCB Tour Championship in Mauritius in March. Getty Images

He’s a legend in GAA terms following his incredibly successful tenure as Dublin manager, guiding the Dubs to five All Ireland titles in a row during a golden era for the county.

His attention to detail was second to none and while he has now retired from the post, he will be rubbing shoulder with some legends at Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort in Donegal on August 16 when he competes in the Celebrity Series event at the Irish Legends presented by the McGinley Foundation.

A host of stars tee it up at the famous Old Tom Morris links from Keith Duffy and Brian McFadden, Donegal’s Daniel O’Donnell, former Republic of Ireland footballers Niall Quinn, Steve Staunton and Kevin Moran as well as hurling duo Anthony Nash and Joe Canning.

Great Britain athletics legend Kriss Akabusi, ex British & Irish Lions number eight Scott Quinnell and England cricketer Graeme Swann are also set to compete, which means Gavin will have to hit the practice ground and get ready.

While he loves the game and plays more often than he did during his managerial career, his main goal is to enjoy good company and have fun.

1. How’s your golf? My golf is where it should be. It’s proportional to the amount of practice I am putting in, which isn’t a lot. I am a Director of the Irish Aviation Authority, which takes up all my time. I know from coaching Dublin that if you don’t practice, you will just perform to that level. Even getting out once a week is a challenge. I managed Dublin for 12 years, and the only time I really played was when I was away on holidays in west Clare at Doonbeg.

2. How did you get started in the game? My dad Jimmy was one of the founder members of Craddockstown and he’s 86 now and he’s very proud of the way the course has matured over the years. It’s a beautiful course, really well-maintained with lots of great challenges. After The K Club, it’s the best parkland in Kildare for me. We played everything in our house growing up and dad played golf, so we’d chip away with his clubs or go to the local pitch and putt club at Clondalkin Mills. Then a good friend of mine, who has since passed away, Jimmy Kelly, we began to play at Bodenstown, which is gone now. So that’s where I started to get my grá for golf. Then in Cadets School in the defence forces, I played quite a lot out of the Curragh or Royal Curragh now. There was a strong, healthy golf presence in the Dublin football team too, where a lot of players played, and that drove it on.

3. Choose your weapon... Driver or putter? And why? I’m a decent enough putter and maybe I take that for granted, so I’d say the driver because when I hit decent drives, I feel comfortable with anything from a six-iron in my hands.

4. Links or parkland? Why? I really enjoy The K Club and I love Grange and Castle, but if you push me, I’d probably say links in good company because of the views.

5. When were you happiest on the golf course? Probably when playing with my dad Jimmy. Or in similar good company. I’m not obsessed about my golf, but I enjoy the game.

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6. Who was your sporting hero as a kid? Anton O’Toole. The Blue Panther. He was a left-footer like me but much taller. He was incredibly brave and he had a beautiful grace about him. He would’ve played in those iconic Dublin teams, playing six All Ireland finals in a row in the 70s, winning three, and winning again in 1983. The team that won in ‘83 is probably the best Dublin team. His goals against Cork in the semi-final that year were iconic.

7. Name a rival you especially admired and why. Paul Curran was a defender who would mark me in many games and it was always a tough day at the office. As a manager, Colm Cooper was always a great player. But we respected everybody.

8. What’s your golfing ambition? Do you have one? To get my handicap down to single figures. I have no timetable, it’s a journey. I’ll get there when my golf game is ready.

9. Name your dream fourball (they don’t have to be golfers). And name the venue. From a coaching perspective, I’d have John Wooden, the great UCLA basketball coach; from the political sphere, Nelson Mandela; and as a former military man, the emperor Marcus Aurelius. If I could have a fourth and just watch them, I’d have Chuck Yeager, the test pilot. The man with the right stuff. The venue? The entire island of Ireland. We have so many good courses, you can’t go wrong. But if I had to pick one to finish the trip, the links at Doonbeg.

10. If you could change something about the modern GAA, what would it be? I’m not going to get into the rules debate, but I’d say put the linesmen or women on the pitch. In basketball, they have three referees inside a 500 m2 area. Our pitch is around 12,000 m² and we only have one.

11. If I gave you a mulligan in your career, what would it be? No, I don’t believe in mulligans. You don’t deserve anything in life; you have to earn it. You get what you deserve. People saying such a county deserves to win a championship is wrong. It just doesn’t work that way.

12. If you had just one more round to play, where would it be? Don’t say Augusta National unless you absolutely must. Doonbeg Golf Links in good company and then retire to the members’ bar and watch the sun setting on Doughmore Bay. I used to bring the Dublin team down there during the five-in-a-row spin. We’d strain at the local pitch, have a game of golf and then retire to the restaurant and look at the sun setting over the day. Beautiful.

13. What’s your favourite par three? They lost the great par-three 14th in Doonbeg to a storm, and for me, it’s a disgrace that they didn’t get permission to protect that coastline. Both of my parents are from west Clare, and while the Clare County Council gave permission to protect Doonbeg, central government said no, you can’t do that. It irates me every time I go down there and see the remains of the old 14th. The Dell at Lahinch is a fantastic par-three and the 10th at Hermitage, hitting down towards the Strawberry Beds and the river Liffey. That’s a spectacular hole.

14. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Nothing. I am content with what I have and what I can control.

15. What’s your most treasured possession? My grandfathers, Sean Vaughn and Michael Gavin fought in the War of Independence. I never met them, but I have Michael Gavin’s War of Independence medal. That’s a treasured possession. I recently got it framed.

16. If you could change something about your golf, what would it be? Maybe a little bit more consistency off the tee.

17. Who’s your favourite golfer of all time? Why? That’s easy. Seve Ballesteros. Growing up in the 80s, my memory was of cracking summers, the one that stands out would be the Carroll’s Irish Open at Royal Dublin 1985, when he holed that long putt across the 18th green to beat Bernhard Langer.

I loved the way he played, his resilience, and his bravery. I actually studied him afterwards. When people say sports people have a natural talent. Well, they might have a genetic disposition — their size or their fast-twitch fibres. But what he said was: “To give yourself the best possible chance of playing to your potential, you must prepare for every eventuality. That means practice.” I used that quote a lot with players and teams.

18. What’s your idea of perfect happiness? Hearing my kids Yasmin and Jude laugh.

For more information about the Legends Tour experience, check www.legendstour.com

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