Different Strokes: Maria Dunne an example to all

At age of 32 the Skerries golfer received call-up to team GB&I for 2016 Curtis Cup

At Rosses Point at Easter I came across a lone lady out by the tough 14th, biting her nails as her son looked likely to end up on the wrong side of a war of attrition in the season-opening West of Ireland Championship.

“How’s it going?” I asked, not knowing who was playing but showing some solidarity with one of the three interested parties at the windswept par four.

“He’s two down,” the woman replied, her anguished face frozen by a biting west wind. “He’ll be devastated…”

It’s understandable that golf is the be-all and end-all for hundreds of wonderfully talented teenagers all over Ireland. But if last week’s Curtis Cup team announcement by Great Britain and Ireland told us anything it’s that dreams come in all shapes and sizes and those that come true later rather than sooner are often the sweetest.


At the age of 32, Maria Dunne’s call up for June’s matches at the Dun Laoghaire was just one of many good news stories enjoyed by the ILGU’s High Performance panel to far this more.

More was to come on Sunday when Olivia Mehaffey retained the Welsh Ladies Open Strokeplay title by five strokes from Donaghadee’s Jessica Ross with Skerries star Maria taking ninth place.

With Leona Maguire as world No 1 and Olivia at No 9, a team selection by a 32-year old married woman might not seem like such a big deal. And yet it’s arguably the highlight of the ILGU’s season so far because it says so much about dedication, determination and what it means to play amateur golf.

It’s not that Maria Dunne is not as determined as the next woman to win every time she tees it up - she is - but that she’s got enough perspective to know what the game means.

“I try my best to make Irish teams and world teams but at the end of the day, life goes on and you have to have a balance between personal life, work life and golf life,” Maria explained shortly after her selection.

“Your golf life is the extra three hours you set aside after you have done your eight hours in your full time job or the hour you do in the gym after you scrape the ice off the windscreen at 6 am in the morning.

“Yes, I’ve worked really hard. But you have to have time for yourself and your family, otherwise golf just becomes this big massive…. thing.”

Finding ways not to turn golf into a “big massive… thing,” is the secret to enjoying it as an amateur and in an age when every boy dreams of becoming the next Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry or Pádraig Harrington, the time is coming when the girls will be looking to professional role models in the women’s game.

Players like Leona Maguire and Olivia Mehaffey will become those stars, just as Stephanie Meadow caught the imagination of many when she finished third in the US Women’s Open on her professional debut.

Properly combining ambition and goal setting with a healthy lifestyle is a lesson that many of our young male professionals need to take on board and that’s why the ILGU’s High Performance manager David Kearney was so pleased to see Maria Dunne getting her reward.

“With people like Stephanie [MEADOW]and Leona [MAGUIRE]coming on, the professional game is now starting to appear on the radar for us,” Kearney says.

“But someone like Maria shows the others that you can do it if you put in the work and many of the girls are very goal-driven and career-driven performers.”

Kearney is not being condescending but realistic about the state of the women’s professional game when he adds: “Paula Grant has just done optometry, Jessica Ross is doing chemical engineering, Chloe Ryan is studying Law. They don’t have to turn pro. They have fantastic options and travel the world playing golf thanks to the ILGU.”

The ILGU wants to have three women in the world’s Top 100 when the World Amateur Team Championships are played in Carton House in 2018.

As things stand, that looks more than achievable but it’s important that the younger girls learn from Maria’s work ethic and philosophy.

“Being selfish about it from our viewpoint, she is an example to people who miss out on selection that you will get your reward if you keep doing the right things and Maria has kept doing the right things,” Kearney says.

How fitting that Jessica Ross should push Olivia Mehaffey all the way in the first Championship played since Maria Dunne got the nod.

As Kearney points out, teenagers such as Annabel Wilson, Mairead Martin, Niamh McSherry, Julie McCarthy and Valerie Clancy now look to Maria Dunne as a winter training team mate who made it and think, “Why can’t it be me.”

McNamara emphatically responds to grant snub

Motivation comes from many quarters but one wonder if Headfort’s Rory McNamara’s strong start to the season has anything to do with not getting a Team Ireland Golf grant in February.

A total of €105,000 was awarded to “12 aspiring golfers who are pursuing their careers on professional golf tours” but as McNamara did not finish the 2015 season inside the Top 30 money winners on the EPD Tour, a mini tour based in Munich, the small print in the Team Ireland application said he wasn’t eligible for backing.

The devil, as they say, is in the detail and it was no surprise to those who know him to see McNamara begin the season in strong fashion, winning the Tony Jacklin Open in Casablanca in March.

McNamara won more than €5,000 in prize money that day but a maiden win as a professional gave the former North and West of Ireland Amateur champion a spot in this week’s Trophée Hassan II as the top player from a mini order of merit from the EPD Tour’s six-tournament run in Morocco.

Now representing La Cala in Spain, 26-year old McNamara tees it up at Royal Dar Es Salam this week alongside veteran Peter Lawrie and four of this season’s Team Ireland Grant recipients in Cormac Sharvin, Gary Hurley, Paul Dunne and Kevin Phelan.

In the bag – West Waterford's Seamus Power in the Web.com Tour's United Leasing & Finance Championship.

Driver: PING G, 10.5 degrees

3-wood: PING G, 14.5 degrees

5-wood: PING G, 17.5 degrees

Irons (3-9): Ping S55

Wedges (47, 52, 58 degrees): PING Glide (steel shaft)

Putter: PING Custom

By the numbers

4: Li Haotong’s win in the Volvo China Open was the fourth European Tour win by a Chinese golfer since 2003.

13: He is also the 13th youngest winner of an official European Tour event, aged 20 years and 272 days.

Word of Mouth

1. “At 18, my third shot - it was the most nervous I’ve been in my whole life. Last year I was leading by two in Shenzhen but Kiradech Aphibarnrat made eagle so I just thought, I can’t lose a shot on the last hole. This opens up so many doors for me and I will be sitting down with my family and my agent now speaking about these things.” – Li Haotong on his maiden European Tour victory on home soil at the Volvo China Open.

2. “I haven’t been talking to Rory for a couple of years but we played some golf growing up, which was nice. It was always impressive to watch him play. He has done incredible things for golf in Ireland.

“I have a lot ways to go to get anywhere near that but I am closer to playing tournaments with him again than I was this time last week.” – Seamus Power following his maiden win on the Web.com Tour and his hopes of taking on amateur rival Rory McIlroy again.

Twitter Twaddle

“Awesome win @Power4Seamus!! Keep up the great work” – Rory McIlroy shows some love to his former amateur rival Seamus Power following his breakthrough win on the web.com Tour in Indiana.

“Definitely the darkest day for Offaly hurling in a long long time.” – Shane Lowry on Offaly’s 2-22 to 1-11 defeat to Westmeath in the Leinster hurling championship round robin on Sunday. Offaly man Lowry once said that his greatest nightmare is seeing archrivals “Westmeath winning an All Ireland.”

“Glad I didn’t find it on my American TV.... And golf gets a bad rap for slow play.” – Ian Poulter in reply to snooker legend Stephen Hendry’s slow snooker complaint: “5 and a half hours for 9 frames,what the crap??!!!!!” Hendry was dismayed at the pace of play between Mark Selby and Ding Junhui at The Crucible.

Know the rules

Q: After an approach shot, a player’s ball is overhanging the hole. The player walks up to the hole without unreasonable delay and notices that there is mud on the ball. The player marks the position of the ball and lifts it. He then cleans the ball and replaces it. The ball remains on the lip of the hole for about five seconds and then, as the player is preparing to tap it into the hole, the ball falls into the hole. What is the ruling?

A: Under Rule 16-2, if a ball falls into the hole after it is deemed to be at rest, the player is deemed to have holed out with his last stroke and he shall add a penalty stroke to his score for the hole. In this case, when the player marked the position of the ball it must have been at rest. The ball must be considered to have been at rest when it was replaced; otherwise, it would have to be replaced again (Rule 20-3d). Accordingly, the player is deemed to have holed out with his last stroke and must add a penalty stroke to his score for the hole.