With lots of focus on Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy, interest in golf is growing again and a huge number of kids are taking up the game. One man driving the interest in junior golf is Carrigaline’s Wayne O’Callaghan. As a golf professional O’Callaghan has been making a living from the game of golf for over 15 years, but unlike McIlroy, Wayne is more of a teacher than a tour player.
Wayne qualified as a PGA professional in 1998 and set up his teaching business in the Carrigdhoun Driving range. In 2012 he moved base, going a few hundred yards up the road in Carrigaline to Fernhill Golf Club. It has been a case of steady progression for Wayne, much of which took place in the past three years as he explains: “I established the Wayne O’Callaghan Golf Academy in Fernhill golf club in March 2012. Fernhill offered so much more than a traditional driving range, and Alan and all the staff have been very helpful and progressive in developing the facilities.” Indeed while many courses were cutting back on expenditure, Fernhill’s owner Alan Bowes invested in a new driving range and enhanced practice facilities. O’Callaghan describes the developments: “The facilities now include an eight bay covered range with a teaching bay, grass range with numerous target greens, a pitching green with bunker and a putting green. The end of the range has a dedicated teaching area with new short game pitching greens and a number of grass tees at different yardages to hone student’s game.”
The junior academy has developed along with the facilities at Fernhill, Wayne now has 50 young golfers attending four times a week, ranging in age from 5 to9 12. “I run a very busy junior academy in Fernhill with close to 50 juniors enrolled with four classes every week. The main thing is that I try to keep the academy fun with different challenges every week, there are different stations set up covering the games fundamentals: short game areas, fitness even turning the bunker into a long jump pit. The juniors get to play a few holes in each session and this attracts a lot of juniors to the academy.” Getting under 12’s onto a course is a growing trend in junior coaching and Wayne is a believer in the value of combining the tuition element of coaching with the on-course experience: “The golf course on site is the ideal way to introduce students many who have never been on a course before to experience playing a golf course and learn some of the rules and etiquette needed to play. The course is the ideal way to see how students approach playing the course as opposed to just watching them hitting shots on the range, this really gives me an insight to their course management, shotmaking skills so it’s the perfect environment to access their overall game. Fernhill Golf Club is open for juniors to join to join the club with competitions each month and a coaching package put in place for junior members.” Over the past 24 months O’Callaghan has worked with like-minded PGA professionals around the country to create a network for both coaches and golfers. While the focus of junior coaching will always be weighted towards participation and skills development, Wayne also develops the competitive side of the game: “I established the Irish Junior Masters Golf Tour to give juniors of all ages the chance to compete. The course set up at different lengths to make sure everyone could enjoy playing. The tour has grown each year with regional events, four provincial championships, and a national final. Fernhill is the venue for the Irish Junior Masters Final, a huge entry is expected this year with juniors all over the country competing.
While the junior academy takes up quite a bit of Wayne’s time he also combines this with a busy schedule for adult golfers. As well as individual lessons, Wayne also runs a number of group coaching programmes for specialist areas. O’Callaghan continues to invest in technology to aid his own teaching abilities as he explains: “I use all of the latest in teaching technology such as Trackman, the Boditrak pressure mat, quintic ball roll and TOMI-3D for putting sessions to help my students get the most out of their games. I follow up all sessions with an email and a screencast with a voiceover of their lesson so they can view at anytime. This allows them to go practice with a clear pathway to what they should work on.” Trackman has become the favourite launch monitor for touring professionals and while it primarily a diagnostic tool, Wayne has found an alternative use: “Trackman has also been a great tool for corporate and society days for measuring long drives as it tracks the ball from launch to land and places the balls flight in the video. This year we are offering corporate and team building days to include a golf clinic, game of golf and a meal in the clubhouse. A number of local clubs have contracted me to coach their various teams and were blown away with the facilities in Fernhill, which must be one of the best practice facilities in the country.”