After several years as a professional golfer, Peter O’Keeffe is returning to the amateur ranks, but the Douglas man still intends to make a career from the sport, working as one of a few specialist golf fitness coaches. O’Keeffe has recently completed his certification as a Titleist Performance Institute Fitness instructor and has started a new golf fitness business based in Dennehy’s Health & Fitness in Douglas.
O’Keeffe’s interest in fitness and sports science started over a decade ago, when he attended Southeastern Louisiana University on a golf scholarship. As well as playing golf at the highest collegiate level, Peter studied sports science in his years in Louisiana. That gave him a solid foundation in the scientific end of the fitness and physiology, and his interest in the area was driven by his own experiences on tour as a professional golfer. He explained what has led him to this new stage of his career: “I always had an idea of physical fitness and its relevance to sports. The Titleist Performance Institute have done superb research on all types of golfers and have come up with a coaching method that is far superior to anything I have seen in my time as a golfer. I played on the European Challenge Tour for 5 seasons and year after year I noticed the players getting fitter and stronger. The daily routine went from lazy mornings in the hotel to a race to the gym to get your pre-round workout in. I was always one of the longest hitters on the tour but I also noticed the gaps getting smaller in that department, which really focussed me to get working on my own body. It’s no coincidence that most players on the PGA and European Tours are now working with TPI certified fitness Professionals.”
Part 2: Tour Life Ain’t Cheap
While many PGA teaching professionals go on to gain TPI certification, an increasing number of fitness professionals are using TPI training to specialise in fitness programmes for golfers. Peter went through the TPI programme himself as a student while playing professionally in 2012, and understands the value that it brings to golfers. He explains: “I met Luke Dennehy in 2012 when I was playing on the European Challenge Tour when I heard that he was the only TPI qualified person in the area. Luke quickly got me to work and I must it really sparked my interests in the health and fitness industry in general. The TPI training is focussed purely on golf which at the time was just what I needed. I’ve always been naturally athletic which certainly helps in sports but for the first time I could see where my body was struggling and could make the connection to my swing which is the crucial part of TPI.”
“When Luke put me through the TPI screening process it was a huge wake up call for me. From my results of the TPI screening I could make the connections to the faults in my golf swing. I suffered a fracture to my shin back in 2003 which resulted in a loss of mobility in my left ankle. I never realised this but I had been compensating in my golf swing for years. It took me ten years to face the problem which was made clear to me during the TPI screening process. Luke designed a program for me based on my results and I worked extremely hard to improve. The TPI program covers a lot of physical aspects that are beneficial to everyone even outside of golf. I got much stronger, more flexible and I didn’t have as many injuries. A lot of golfers suffer from niggles somewhere in their backs, including me. Core strengthening exercises and knowing the correct exercises to do has improved this for me no end. In short I haven’t felt a twinge in my back for years. I am a much fitter person in general and as a golfer I improved my distance and my ball striking as a result of being trained in TPI. The TPI approach certainly made me a better golfer. There were situations in professional tournaments that I put my mind back to my TPI screening and training with Luke, and remembered something that made my shot at that time better. Overall I put on more distance off the tee as I increased my swing speed and saw a huge improvement in the quality of my ball striking which really benefited me in windy conditions.”
After 15 years of playing at both amateur and professional levels, Peter has seen a big change in the approach that golfers of all levels are taking; “The golfer is evolving and has evolved into a proper athlete. When we play 18 holes at our local course, we are usually covering 4-5 miles either pulling or carrying a heavy golf bag and that’s before we hit a shot, that is demanding on our bodies and we as golfers will pick up injuries. For the more advanced golfer, his or her coach is a crucial part of the TPI process. With video analysis and the coach’s input, together we can paint the picture of the player’s tendencies and faults and by implementing a structured TPI golf exercise program, the results will speak for themselves. The beauty of TPI is that golfers of any level can benefit. Injury prevention is a major part of TPI training. Many golfers carry some little injury that may hurt them from time to time but never really goes away. By carrying out the initial TPI full body screening, along with the players history of injuries if applicable, we can then work to improve that injury through a bespoke golf specific training program and help that person play injury free golf so they can prolong their golf career.”
O’Keeffe is very much at ease with his transition back to an amateur and is keen to use his tour experience and specialist fitness training to help golfers: “2015 is here, I am now pretty well qualified in the health and fitness industry and my goal is to be involved with golfers of all levels to help them improve physically, which will improve their golf. Any young players interested in embarking on the tour path should certainly consider a specialist golf training programme. For me, I am eligible to play amateur golf in September again, I had to wait two years before I can play any competitive golf again and the time is nearly here. I’m not quite sure about how competitive I am going to be, but I am a competitor at heart so I’ll just have to see. I know I will enjoy my golf more knowing that there are no great consequences and it is no longer my ‘everything’.”