A Quick 18 with Ian Kearney: “There’s nothing like seeing the players you train do well”
Club: Dromoland Castle
Mayo-born Ian Kearney is steeped in golf and this week’s KPMG Irish Women’s Open is like Christmas time for PGA professional Dromoland Castle as Leona Maguire and top European pros tackle design revamped from Ron Kirby and JB Carr to Co Clare.
The course and hotel have undergone a multi-million dollar upgrade over the past few years and Kearney, who learned the game at the lovely Claremorris Golf Club, is hugely proud of what has been accomplished.
He’s extremely passionate about teaching and playing, and that enthusiasm shows whether he’s talking about the many changes that have been made to Dromoland Castle, his star student Aideen Walsh’s tactical plans this week, or his fourball of dream.
1 How’s your golf?
Unfortunately, I don’t play as much as I used to. I try to maintain my skills. I coach the national under-16 team and lead much of the training in the western region for Golf Ireland. So I try to go out and play every week with my members and good players. I always like to go out to play, but we have a nine-week-old daughter, Georgie, so she takes a lot of time too. I have been at Dromoland Castle for four years and it has been a fascinating project with the board of directors investing a lot of money in the hotel and the golf course. I really think the golf experience is on point now with the castle.
2 How did you start 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 low single digits. So I was born into it. One of my earliest memories is of throwing a golf ball through the back window of my house. I don’t think anyone thought I would make contact.
3 Choose your weapon….Driver or putter? And why?
I would say the driver, but putting is something I’m passionate about. I’ve been involved in some putting ventures and there’s nothing quite like rolling in a few putts.
4 Links or park? Why?
I have to say a park for the week there, especially with an estate like Dromoland Castle. There is so much history here and it is such a beautiful area. But we are lucky in this part of the world. You only have to go to Lahinch and Doonbeg and you have phenomenal link courses.
5 When were you happiest on the golf course?
I have many fond memories of playing as a boy. Too many to choose one. But I guess winning my first professional event on the Irish PGA Tour after just six or seven starts was a phenomenal achievement and then as a coach there’s nothing like seeing the players you coach well, not just as 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 to watch them grow. We’re very lucky to have had a huge increase in membership here, so seeing a member break their personal best or win a contest is incredibly rewarding. I’m coaching Aideen Walsh (left), who is playing this week and I can’t wait to see her take on the best on the continent.
6 Who is your sports hero?
In golf, it would have been someone like Nick Faldo. And my namesake Ian Woosnam. And Europe’s Ryder Cup heroes were still there too. There were also several Mayo sports heroes.
7 Name someone in your company that you particularly admired at the start.
My brother David was ILGU’s High Performance Director for 20 years and there are a lot of great people who would have helped him along the way and have helped me as well. I have had the good fortune to work alongside some very successful people throughout my career. I also spent 10 wonderful years at Doonbeg, and people like Brian Shaw were a great help to me.
8 What is your golf ambition? Have you a?
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 place.
My father and my brothers. I would need two balls to get everyone out. Or two three bullets. And we would probably play at home in Claremorris and have fun as a family.
10 If you could change one thing about the PGA, what would it be?
I appreciate all the work they try to do to help pros specialize in certain parts of the industry and certain roles. The role of the club professional is however very complex and requires expertise in many areas, especially interpersonal skills. We cannot lose sight of this.
11 If I gave you a mulligan in your career, what would it be?
I would say I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with some fantastic people. So there is no role that I have never enjoyed. As my mother said, what is for you will not pass through you and may it continue for a long time.
12 If you only had one trick left, what would it be? Don’t say Augusta National unless you absolutely have to.
It would be between the return to Claremorris or the Old Course to St Andrews. There’s nowhere in golf that makes you feel like this on the first tee or the 18th green.
13 What’s your favorite par 3 at Dromoland Castle?
The seventh. It’s a stunning par three and it’s tricky because you’re hitting a short to mid iron from an elevated, tree-lined tee where you generally won’t feel the wind. You really have to control your trajectory from this tee. You must have excellent distance control.
14 If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? It doesn’t have to be about golf.
Think too much or talk too much!
15 What is your most prized possession? The first thing you would 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 one thing about your golf, what would it be?
Like all members who have just been, I would like to have another 50 yards from the tee. And the little game. No one ever complained about hitting it too close.
17 Who is your favorite golfer of all time? Why?
Luke Donald. Excellent swing, excellent short game, he was not a long hitter but an all-around class player and former world number one.
18 What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Good times with happy, healthy family and friends.