Conor Moore is on the other end of the phone. There's social distancing and, well, there's real social distancing. Other side of the Atlantic style.
He's in Orlando in Florida but this man of many voices remains immersed in his roots, which happen to be Mullingar in Co Westmeath, even if his talent for impersonating the world's top golfers has taken him to the point where he has his own show on The Golf Channel and on the global GolfPass digital platform.
The transatlantic call doesn't keep distance between us. It's like he's in the same room, except you just don't know who he is. A bit of Tiger Woods, some more of Pádraig Harrington, perhaps a sound bite of Ian Poulter, some Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy thrown in . . . but, mostly, himself, which is a story in itself.
In interviews like this, there's every chance of bursting out laughing at any moment; which only goes to show how good he is at his job. And job is what it has become for the man whose sporting ambitions growing up didn't go beyond making it as a Gaelic footballer with Mullingar Shamrocks has cracked it stateside with a gift for the gab that set him apart.
Indeed, the trajectory of Moore’s new broadcasting career can be traced with little difficulty back to a football match involving his beloved Shamrocks. In another era the great sports commentator Michéal O’Hehir might have referred to it all as a bit of a schemozzle.
As it happened a photographer from the local Westmeath Topic newspaper captured images of the on-field coming together and, imaginatively, Moore made a skit of the whole thing by making a video – becoming Joe Brolly, Eamon Dunphy and Jose Mourinho – and sent it out on the team's WhatsApp group.
The reaction surprised him.
“The boys were like, ‘wow, that’s amazing, we didn’t know you could do that’.” They told him to do something. So he did. He stayed up all night, made a video, uploaded it and it went viral. Joe.ie got onto him offering him a job.
“But when they realised I only had one video to my arsenal, that I’d done nothing before, they didn’t,” he recalled.
But that initial interest was enough to shift career paths. At the time, Moore was a mobile-phone salesman for Three, cold-calling from home, and he gave up the position.
“I quit that job, said I’d make videos for six months and see how it goes. Four months into it, I got another call from Joe, they gave me a job and it took off from there.”
It’s worth backtracking just a bit to acknowledge that Moore’s talent had been identified much earlier in life.
“When I was about six my mother sent me to drama classes because I was always doing sketches at Christmas for people and taking people off. I went, and this girl said to her, ‘he is far too good for this class, you should send him to Dublin, there’s a class my friend does for more advanced kids’.
“I went up one Saturday and realised it was a Saturday morning at half ten and I had training with Shamrocks at half 11 in Mullingar so I had to pick. So I kicked and I cried and shouted from the rooftops I didn’t want to go to drama and I wanted to go down with the boys and play football. So I gave up the drama. My mother was fair disappointed but it all worked out in the end.”
All those years on, the journey of rediscovery and into the world of impersonation brought him into his own.
“I didn’t want to be doing stuff like Mario [Rosenstock] or Oliver [Callan] or other people were doing. So, I was doing Ger Loughnane and all these guys in the GAA that weren’t really being done. The Brollys, and then in soccer I did [Jurgen] Klopp and Pep [Guardiola] and made my name in that,” he recalled.
There would be a touch of fate about moving into golf, which is where his star ascended.
“Golf was one of those tough sports for me. I played a lot of team sports, played soccer and football. Around 14 or 15 I went down to Mullingar Golf Club and I was going to throw my clubs, which weren’t mine anyway, into the forest after about two holes, the frustration of it. It was just so hard.
“I would have been very sporty growing up and I was able to play everything and you go out onto the golf course and you can’t play it. I always loved watching golf, I was always such a big sports fan, and any time any of the Majors were on, I was just glued to the TV watching them.”
He can thank his dad Tom for reactivating the connection with golf. As the incoming captain of Mullingar Golf Club in 2018, his father asked if he would do “a couple of gigs” during his term of office. Little did he know at the time where that request would take him.
“I thought, ‘it would be cool if I went down there and did a couple of golfers’. Then I thought, ‘nobody is doing golf impersonations’. I took off about six to eight weeks and I learnt 10 guys and I put the video out for the Masters in 2018. And literally the night I put it out, the Golf Channel reached out to me and said we would like to talk to you about some opportunities. The rest is history.”
Only though hard work, though.
“They’re all different,” conceded Moore of the challenges of capturing the right inflection, of getting the impersonation just right.
“Harrington took me no time at all. Tiger took me longer. I didn’t think I could do him, I actually spent five days doing nobody else but him. I just listened to him for five days non-stop. Morning I was Tiger, lunch I was Tiger, night-time I was Tiger.”
It was the same when he got around to doing Bubba Watson. Now, it's the same working on his Phil Mickelson.
“Phil is taking even longer. I found it easier to get good at Phil really quick but I am struggling to get him past a certain point. Everything is different. Some are just complete caricatures of themselves, like Pádraig Harrington. If I wanted to I could do him really well and talk in his normal accent. But it is funnier to be like, ‘Aaaaaaggghhhh’, that kind of exaggerated Pádraig. Everyone is different, sometimes it can take three or four days to get somebody, other times it could take three or four weeks, or even longer.”
So, what do the players make of him? Last year, after Shane Lowry's win in the British Open at Royal Portrush, Moore was outside the media centre when he was spotted by Harrington. "He gave me a second look and then went, 'It's you'. And he caught me by the throat and went,' Aaaaaaggghhhh'."
On encountering Ian Poulter for the first time at the DDF Irish Open in Lahinch last year, the Englishman came over to him.
“Mate, you’re taking the mick out of me.”
The two are now firm friends and Moore has even done a gig for Poulter in his house. He’s also Moore’s personal favourite to impersonate.
“It is like doing the Ger Loughnane impersonation back home. Poults is everybody’s favourite character over here, he has got the best kind of swagger, the cockiness, obviously you are developing a character away from what Poults is really and taking different inflections off him.”
For someone who once felt compelled to toss a golf bag into the trees as a teenager, Moore – his Gaelic football ambitions now discarded, “I never grew past 5ft5in, so I made it very hard for myself” – has fallen in love with the sport.
“I love it, I’ve substituted the football with golf. For me, it is the best game in the world to play. I played in the captain’s prize in Mullingar last year and looking at the last six groups, and they are all playing for the one prize, but the ages ranged from about 17 to 71 and the handicaps from scratch to 28. There’s no other sport in the world you can do that. You can play it forever.”
His unique style has also enabled him to rub shoulders with the great and good of the game. Tiger Woods. And Jack Nicklaus. On first meeting Nicklaus, Moore told him of how he was indirectly the cause of arguments in the Moore household.
“My two brothers were such big Tiger fans and we didn’t watch golf back when Jack was playing and we were all like, ‘Tiger’s the best, Tiger’s the greatest’ and my dad would always come in and say Jack Nicklaus was the greatest golfer of all time. We were always having this back and forth.”
A few weeks after that meeting, Moore received a letter in the post from Nicklaus, a signed photograph for his father . . . and, more recently, when Moore was performing at a fundraiser for the Nicklaus’s charitable foundation, there was an offer for his father to attend, where the table plan had him sitting next to the Golden Bear himself.
"The Conor Moore Show" features real-time monologues, sketches and interviews with personalities from sports and entertainment and is available in Ireland on the GOLFPASS digital membership platform.