Long Read: O’Keeffe takes golf fitness to new level

O’Keeffe Golf Fitness has opened a new location and has added to the services available to golfers of all levels.

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Peter O’Keeffe training with the help of Trackman 4 at Dennehy’s Blackpool. Picture: Niall O’Shea

Although he’s only just over 12 months into a new career, Peter O’Keeffe has carved out a brand new market for golf fitness.  And that market is growing rapidly, O’Keeffe now has two locations providing screenings and exercises based on the Titleist Performance Institute fitness programme.  O’Keeffe set up in Dennhey’s Douglas in mid-2015, and from a standing start with no clients, Peter saw the business grow rapidly which meant opening a dedicated golf section when Dennehy’s were planning to open a new gym in Blackpool.  With dedicated training areas for golf fitness clients in both Douglas and Blackpool, Mark O’Connell has also come on board to deal with the growing demand for golf specific fitness training.  When Peter started in Douglas he was using the existing infrastructure, the gym and a large room which was normally used for classes.  As Blackpool was a new fit –out, this gave him the opportunity to develop a customised gym and golf performance room.  The performance room has a driving bay, and with the help of state of the art Trackman technology, O’Keeffe can not only observe the movement but he can also track results.  Detailed notes and statistics can be kept on mobility, speed and flexibility as well as the results from the simulated shots in the driving bay.  The customised gym provides golfer with a dedicated area for golf specific training while there’s also access to the large gym.  “During the plans for our new gym in Blackpool we added a golf performance room in the plans” explained O’Keeffe.  “I always had the vision of a golfer coming for a physical assessment for golf but I believe the player should see themselves swinging when we are discussing functional movement of the golf swing.    Adding the Trackman system has brought our service to another level.  I know for a fact that without it, our overall product would be weaker.  It is the best technology available so that is exactly what we wanted.  I have a database with every client’s sessions where I can compare and contrast between previous sessions with clients when we finish a package.  The results are fantastic and I get a great kick when I see golfers looking at the screen seeing themselves from session one to further sessions.”

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Mark O’Connell  training at the golf performance gym at Dennehy’s Blackpool. Picture: Niall O’Shea

The TPI programme was developed by Dr Greg Rose in California back in 2003 to educate golfers and instructors in the body-swing connection.  Over the past 13 years the programme has evolved with an advisory staff of 52 experts now supporting certified instructors in 58 countries.  The TPI programme remains the industry leader.  In addition to fitness, TPI has developed modules in medical, golf, power and junior development to support professionals working in the specific areas.  While the facilities and the technology have improved, the basic screening concept hasn’t changed.  O’Keeffe explained: “When a player of any level, age, gender comes to get assessed we will treat that player as blank canvas.  No two players are the same hence our physical screening process.  The results of the screening give us the information needed to design a bespoke golf fitness program for that player.  We are also extremely focussed on progressing every player so interaction between client and TPI professional is a big part of the process.”  While many weekend golfers run from the car to the first tee, Peter sees that evolving: “I have no doubt that golfers are embracing being fit and the fact that golf is a sport and we must prepare our bodies to be the best it can be.  Working on areas of speed, power, mobility, balance, strength etc. will help us perform better at our chosen sport.  Our sessions are suitable for golfers of all ages.  Injury prevention is a key area that will enable us all to play the sport we love for many years to come.”  As well as leading the golf fitness side of the business, Peter is also Managing Director of Dennehy’s Health & Fitness.  Blackpool is the third location for the company and compliments the gym’s in Douglas and Ballincollig.  As well as adding the golf and bespoke nutrition elements to the core business, Dennehy’s have a simple payment structure which give members access to all three gyms for a single membership.

dwyers-3d-techIt’s no surprise that there is a growing demand for golf specific fitness training.  One of the busiest places at a European Tour event every week is the European Tour Physio Unit.  Shane Lowry often travels to events with his fitness coach Robbie Cannon and his sports chiropractor Shane Lawlor, as do several of the top flight professionals.  While swing coaches and equipment trucks are clearly seen at all tour events, the trainers, fitness coaches and physio’s are probably in the locker rooms.   The growing popularity of fitness coaches with top level touring professionals is a validation of O’Keeffe’s experience over the past 12 months.  But he didn’t only deal with top amateurs and pro’s in his first year: “During the past 12 months my clients have ranged in ages from 9 years old to 79 years old and this presents an interesting challenge for me.  Working with a 9 year old’s basic movement, balance, hand eye co – ordination all the while making the session fun and challenging will be worlds apart from a 79 year old woman who wants to become more mobile to improve how she hits the ball and to help her to play golf for years to come!  I must say, the first day during that lady’s assessment blew me away.  At 79 she told me that she wanted to improve her speed and power for golf and that’s exactly what we did.”  O’Keeffe, who majored in  has worked with golfers of all levels, that includes aspiring young golfers, PGA Professionals, senior golfers, and kids ranging in age from 9 to 18.  With the growth of golf fitness and moving to Blackpool we now have Mark O’Connell (TPI Certified Professional) taking the reins at our gym in Douglas.  Mark is an excellent addition to the golf fitness team.  Now golfers across the city and beyond can come to Douglas or Blackpool and get started on improving their fitness for golf.  I see this as a fantastic opportunity for golfers to learn about their own movement in their golf swing.  I always ask clients if they warm up correctly or I often hear complaints about stiffness or pains after golf.  These are many components of golf preparation that we as TPI certified professionals will focus on.”

Mark O’Connell Joins the Team

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Mark O’Connell

The demand for screenings and golf fitness programmes has meant that Mark O’Connell come on board to increase Dennehy’s capacity.  Mark who mainly works in Douglas has qualifications from the NCEF, SAQ, IRB and the Titleist Performance Institute.  Like O’Keeffe, Mark is an accomplished golfer.  Having played the game for 10 years, the 21 year old has a large amount of experience from playing in Boys and Youth provincial championships.  Mark is currently playing off 8 in Kinsale but was a low as 4 when he was playing competitive golf.  Mark is enjoying his new role in the Dennehy’s Health & Fitness family.  “I always had an interest in general fitness but when I got the opportunity to specialise in golf fitness it was always something I wanted to get involved” said O’Connell.  “especially from when I was playing I was always looking up gym routines and warm up exercises.  I now want to be able to give people a personalised routine to suit their individual needs.  I ended up specialising in golf because with any sport hard work pays off but with golf on particular if you have a proper training program, work extremely hard then your golf game will only get better and that’s what I most enjoy about TPI programme is seeing golfers improve by getting their bodies physically ready for golf.”  Mark is only one of a handful of fitness professionals to hold the TPI Fitness certification.

In addition to his own training and studies, Mark has also learned from Peter’s experience.  “I have learned a lot from Peter especially the technical side of the swing” said the 21 year old.  “I think that’s why we work so well, Peter has knowledge about the swing and through what I am studying I am learning a lot about the body and from there we put everything together to help people reach their goals by preparing their bodies for golf.   I had particular success with one golfer playing senior golf.  This lady in particular struggled off the tee with her driver by slicing it right.  This was due to lack of lower body mobility and couldn’t turn her hips.  We put a focus on improving this and after a five week package she won best gross in the Captain’s Prize and had her lowest round to date.”

Smartphones DirectAlthough it’s heading for the quiet season for golf, Mark will have a busy Autumn.  It’s a time when many golfers look at improvements so the demand for screenings are expected to increase.  Add to that the fact that the Kinsale member plays golf regularly and that he’s playing rugby with UCC, Mark is set for a busy time.

O’Keeffe has good start to new era as an Amateur

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Peter O’Keeffe pictured during the Senior Interprovincials Picture: Niall O’Shea

After eight years as a professional golfer, Peter O’Keeffe regained his amateur status last September.  Coming back to play with his peers – and a whole new generation of top class amateurs must have been daunting for O’Keeffe, but with the first playing season almost over Peter is still at the top level.  He had a good start to his season but he’s still chasing his first win having threatened in several competitions.  After a good winter at his home course in Douglas, the four senior scratch cups in April gave him an opportunity to test himself.  Peter was in the top 15 in Muskerry in his first outing, he took third place in the Douglas Senior Scratch Cup and was in the top 20 in the Munster Strokeplay.  Overall the results in April were good for the returning professional.  Despite the distractions of running a business and opening a new location, Peter held his focus on golf and he picked up 4th place in the Kerry Scratch Cup.  O’Keeffe was named on the Munster team in the Interpro’s and he also made the matchplay stage at the South of Ireland in Lahinch.  A win still eluded O’Keeffe, he looked like winning the Killarney Scratch Cup last month until his Munster partner Cathal Butler produced a great second round to beat him by one shot.  O’Keeffe’s first win finally came last month – actually he had two of them in quick succession.  Peter won the Kinsale Scratch Cup and the day after he won the Castlemartyr Scratch Cup.  More importantly Peter has maintained his +2 handicap over the course of the summer which means he’s still in the top echelon of amateur golf, and showed consistent form through the 2016 season.   The 34 year old now has a more holistic view of golf and that’s a product of close to 20 years of playing at the top level.  “As a professional golfer, you make a lot of sacrifices in your life even when sometimes you know you are passing up on a good opportunity” says O’Keeffe.  “Times are always changing and nothing ever stays the same, three years on I am now enjoying my life as an amateur golfer.  Playing for Douglas and Munster again this year really made me realise that competitive golf should be enjoyed.  I have enjoyed playing this year with no “agenda” or no tour school hanging over me although it was always a challenge that I loved – I did go seven times!  Now If I play well, great and if not what is the big deal?”  That said O’Keeffe has plans for his own game: “I have a swing change that I have put off for years that I need to suck up and work on.  I will continue to work on my own fitness and conditioning but nowadays that’s is part of my daily routine.   Let’s just say I will be setting some very optimistic goals for next year.”

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TPI Certified Fitness trainers Mark O’Connell and Peter O’Keeffe pictured at Dennehy’s Balckpool. Picture: Niall O’Shea