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McGinley Proves It's Never Too Late

by Brian Keogh- September 2, 2014

Rory McIlroy is the poster boy for the precocious – an example to all of the heights that can be reached when players are introduced to the game at an early age.

But just because McIlroy could hit the ball 40 yards when he was still in nappies and win world titles when he was 8 doesn’t mean your dreams of golfing glory are over if you haven’t become a teenage sensation.

Today, nearly 25 years after he went to the U.S. International University as a 23-year-old walk-on, Paul McGinley will be the centre of attention in the golfing world when he announces his three wild cards for the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

It’s been a remarkable journey for the Dubliner and his progress is a testament to the fact that there’s no right or wrong way of making it in the game.

Hard work, determination and good planning are as important in the professional game as God-given golfing talent and McGinley is walking proof of that fact.

Three Ryder Cup appearances as a player – and three wins – are testament to his skill. And if you just happen to be an 8-handicapper at age 19, McGinley and not McIlroy should be your golfing hero.

“I wasn’t one of the star amateurs,” McGinley says of the year that turned his life around and diverted him from a life in business to the professional game. “I wasn’t on the Irish team and barely on the Leinster team. I had just come back from working in Brussels.

“I applied for all the universities in America and nobody offered me a scholarship. I was a walk-on. You pay your own way,” McGinley continued. “The coach promised me that if I played well the first year he would give me a scholarship the second year. That was my best offer and it was going to cost IR£8,000.

“I got a grant of IR£5,000 through Pádraig O’hUiginn (of the Team Ireland Golf Trust), and loan of IR£5,000 from the Bank of Ireland in Whitehall, which my father guaranteed for five grand. And I went away with two grand in the bank.

“That was my airline tickets and my living expenses. It was one of the first years of the Team Ireland Trust. Sonia O’Sullivan was there too.”

McGinley’s father, Michael, remembers how they were invited to the Bank of Ireland to talk about a loan.

“There were some clubs in the corner and Paul gave the head of the bank a lesson and we then had some lunch,” Michael recalls. “After lunch, the head man got up to leave and said, ‘Give these boys whatever money they need.’ He was clearly impressed.”

McGinley headed off to San Diego at Christmas 1989 and the rest, as they say, is history. Of course, it was a serious knee injury that changed the course of his life in the first place.

“I had a real talent and would probably have made the Dublin team – which is the Gaelic football equivalent of playing for Manchester United or Arsenal,” McGinley recalled before the 2004 Ryder Cup in Bloomfield Township, Mich., near Detroit. “I was just one rung below that level when the knee got mangled.

“I was 19, on crutches for six months and out of the sport forever. I wasn’t much of a golfer then – playing off an 8 handicap – but suddenly I could play golf for the whole year rather than just three months in the Gaelic off-season,” McGinley said. “I would’ve still loved to have played for Dublin before the 67,000 crowds they get most games. The Ryder Cup is the closest I’m going to get to that kind of fervour.

“I was 25 when I turned pro, which was really late. Not only that, I was a late developer in terms of golf. At 21 I was not even scratch handicap so golf has come late to me.”

Not everyone is head-hunted by the top American colleges but if your heart is set on the U.S. collegiate route, there are people who can help you become the next McGinley.

Glasgow-based United Sports USA is a golf scholarship agency dedicated to making dreams come true. With students in 41 states in America from 17 nations around the world, they might just be the people to save you that visit to the bank manager.

The Ryder Cup might be the biggest golfing event coming up in September but don’t tell the European one-armed golfers preparing for the fourth edition of the Fightmaster Cup.

Europe will take on the USA at Stirling Golf Club in Scotland, 11-13 September, with Ireland’s Cian Arthurs and Brendan Swan in the 12-strong squad.

Europe won the 2012 edition at the Hilton Indian Lakes Resort in Chicago and while Tullamore’s Michael O’Grady will not be making a fourth appearance this year, this 8-handicap former world champion is hitting the ball farther than ever and just as hard as a tour pro.

At least, that’s according to technicians at a recent Bridgestone ball-fitting event at Rathdowney Golf Club in County Laois.

Michael, who lost the use of his right arm after a car accident at the age of 18, was put through his paces by one of the brand’s ball technicians and fitted for the Bridgestone B330-S golf ball due to his ability to generate tour-level clubhead speed.

“When I fitted Michael, I couldn’t quite believe the amount of power he was generating off the tee with his reverse one-armed swing,” said Bridgestone technician Danny Osbourne. “His driving stats put him into the same swing speed category as PGA Tour star Matt Kuchar.”

Michael, a six-time European Disabled champion, reckons he can pick up 9 yards, explaining: “There’s still golfers out there that don’t realise quite how much a ball fitting will help their game, but I’ve found out firsthand that it really does.”

Ireland’s stars of the future were in action at Killymoon last week for the Bank of Ireland U.K. Irish Junior Open.

Fintona’s Scott Young, who started playing golf at the age of 3, claimed the 13-15 age group championship while Kilrea’s Liam Shaw was the winner in the 16-18 age group.

Owen Crooks from Bushfoot Golf Club also had an impressive 36 holes to win the Irish Junior Championship trophy, finishing at 2-over par.

Second place went to Michael Carey, the son of former Kilkenny hurler D.J. Carey, who was 5 over for the day.

The brainchild of U.K. and Ireland Junior Golf Coach of the Year Michael Gallagher, the tournament has welcomed 210 junior golfers to its inaugural event.

“It’s great to see so many young ones out competing,” Gallagher told the Belfast Telegraph. “I know, from playing junior golf myself, that there aren’t that many things like this out there so I really wanted to make the most of it and see if we can ind the next big golfing superstar in these types of events.

“There’s a lot of talent here and a lot of names that I’ve been hearing about for quite a while now. I just wanted to create something for them to compete in to see what big competitions are really like.”

The golfing Union of Ireland and Irish Ladies Golf Union will stage the inaugural Irish Colleges Invitational Tournament at County Louth next month.

It will be a three-person, strokeplay team event across 54 holes with 36 holes on Thursday, 2 October, and 18 holes on Friday, 3 October.

The event is open to all Irish colleges but will also include a number of colleges from Britain and offer world ranking points to boot.

Killeen Castle’s Mark Collins will defend his Munster Mid-Amateur title at Limerick next weekend.

Another strong field has been assembled for the 13th edition with plus-3 handicappers Pat Murray, Niall Gorey and Gary O’Flaherty the favourites to battle for the title.

Murray will be going for his fourth win with O’Flaherty hoping to add the trophy to his win in the inaugural Irish Mid-Amateur at Roscommon in June, where he won by six shots from Roy Connolly and Joe Crangle.

Carton House clinched the Fred Daly Trophy for the second time in four years in a heart-stopping final at Ardglass.

They beat a brave Galway side, 4-3, when Dean Cafferty beat Mikey Burke at the 20th.

Galway had earlier accounted for a spirited Douglas side in the first semi-final as 2011 champions Carton House saw off Lurgan thanks to two vital victories in the top two matches from David Carey and Marc Boucher.

Ireland’s Kev LeBlanc and Olivia Mehaffey came away empty-handed from the Youth Olympic Games in China. But there were still plenty of positives from the return of golf to the Olympic family for the first time in more than a century.

The events brought huge excitement to the games in Nanjing but golf was also very much part of the closing ceremony for Ireland’s 16-strong team with Royal County Down Ladies’ Mehaffey chosen to represent the team as flag bearer for the closing ceremony.

What odds McIlroy or Stephanie Meadow will get to do the job at Rio de Janeiro in the 2016 Olympic Games?

Dooks will be hoping to follow their Junior Cup victory in ILGU Inter Club Munster Championships with the All Ireland victory.

The Private Home Care Inter-Club Championships National Finals take place 24-27 September at Monkstown.

“Let’s hope we can win the All Ireland now,” said Mary Inglis, who holed a crucial putt on the 20th as Dooks beat East Cork, 3-2.

East Cork won the Intermediate and Minor Cups with Tipperary winning the Challenge Cup and Killarney the Senior Foursomes.

The semi-finals of the popular J.B. Carr Diamond Trophy Tournament take place at Woodenbridge next weekend and there will be a new over-60s event at the club next year.

The women will get their chance to shine with the Wicklow club announcing plans to stage the inaugural Mary McKenna Diamond Trophy Tournament in honour of Ireland’s most successful woman amateur.

It’s been a big year for Warrenpoint with Colm Campbell winning the East of Ireland and the Home Internationals on his debut for Ireland.

Now his cousin Tara Gribben has captured the prestigious Hughes Insurance Ulster Women’s Championship at Warrenpoint with victory against Lurgan’s Niamh Ward in the final last Friday.

North West’s Kyle McCarron carded the only sub-par round of the final day to clinch the Irish Youths Amateur Close Championship in tough conditions at Ardglass.

McCarron’s final two rounds of 72 and 69 gave him a one-shot victory ahead of Castlerock’s Andrew Mulholland with Esker Hill’s Alan Lowry – brother of European Tour player Shane Lowry – in third place.

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