Normally the transition from Boy’s golf to Men’s golf can take a few years, but this season Cathal Butler proved the jump can happen very quickly. The Kinsale golfer started his first season after Boy’s golf with three big wins. In March he won the Fota Island Senior Scratch Cup, shooting an impressive 67 on the two-time Irish Open course, and what’s more impressive is that he finished five clear of a strong field. He followed that in May by winning the Munster strokeplay, beating Cork’s Gary O’Flaherty on the second hole of a sudden death play-off. After being selected for the Munster Interprovincial team, Cathal rounded off the summer with a win in the Killarney Senior Scratch Cup. Outside of the scratch cups, Butler had several good performances in the national championships. He made it through to the last 16 in the West, and the last 32 in the East. He also finished tied for 35th place in the Irish Amateur. He made the last 32 in the South and the last 16 in the Irish Close in the second half of the season.
It was an amazing bounce back for Butler who missed three months in 2015. He had a serious arm injury in August last year, and in addition to the long layoff, it also threatened his ability to compete at the elite level. “The injury I suffered in August 2015 led to a three-month setback” explained Cathal, “I had a lot of time off and I really planned well for 2016. I was very structured throughout the year and I felt very prepared when I stood on the first tee for tournament rounds. The injury also changed my perspective on golf. I was playing a lot one handed and it really brought the enjoyment back in the game for me. I remember being absolutely ecstatic when I holed a 40 footer on 18 to break 100! My attitude was much better on the course in 2016 as a result. I was told by a doctor after the injury that they didn’t think I would be able to play golf at the same level again so to even be back on the course was fantastic.”
Now in his second year in Maynooth, Butler is part of the Paddy Harington Scholars golf programme and is continuing to benefit from the structured golf training programme. Having started with sport under the watchful eyes of Kinsale’s Ger Cullinane, Ian Stafford and Ger Broderick, Cathal still does a lot of work with Cork based coaches. Cathal works with Paul Kiely who’s based out of Cork Golf Club, and he has also works with his inter-pro partner Peter O’Keeffe on the TPI golf fitness programme. Interestingly Butler views 2016 as a progression rather than a breakthrough. “I wouldn’t regard it as a breakthrough year” said Cathal, “My development from when I began playing golf has been very steady. I don’t seem to have steep improvement curves, I feel like I progress at a steady rate year on year. I feel that 2016 was a continuation of my development and that some of my better performances reflected my development which had continued on the same upward curve.” As for the future, Cathal has plenty of short term objectives that will see him strive for further improvements: “I hope to have three weeks of winter training, two in January with Maynooth University and then a further one in March. I will use these weeks to get the game in shape for the first major tournament of the year, the West of Ireland.”
A few weeks ago, Cathal won the Munster Senior Golfer of the Year award, signalling that he was the best Munster golfer of 2016. Cathal also won the Munster Order of Merit thanks to his performances in the national and championships. While golfers will also chase the awards on the course, the 2014 Junior Golfer of the Year des appreciate the off course rewards too: “It was a nice way to cap off the year and the award will always serve as a reminder of the highlights of 2016. It was a great honour to win the awards and it makes the hard work and dedication all the worthwhile. It is also nice to share the award with everyone who helped me throughout the year, mentors, coaches, everyone in Kinsale Golf Club and especially my parents.”
Cathal lists Killarney as 2016 Highlight
After such a great season, which included three wins and several notable performances, picking a highlight must have been difficult for Cathal Butler. Fota Island gave him his first win at senior level while a month later in Cork he added his first Championship win. In a season of high’s Cathal picked his Killarney win as one of the key moments. “I was in a mini-slump leading up to the tournament and I was desperate to perform well again after such a good start to the season” explained the Maynooth University student. “Myself and my dad went up a day early for the tournament and mapped out the course and he caddied for me during the two rounds. I remember three putting 16 and 18 in the first round and being bitterly disappointed! Thankfully, he was there to support me and got me prepared with a positive mindset for round two. His support paid off and I got up and down from the cart path on the 18th for the victory. That was definitely the highlight, it was great for Dad to be right with me during the preparation and the tournament itself. We were both delighted when we got the news of the win on the car journey home and it was fantastic to share it with him. He deserves a lot of credit for being so supportive of my golf regardless of how I am playing!” What was even more interesting about Killarney was that he pipped his friend and inter-pro partner Peter O’Keeffe to the win. Peter had led the opening round, and seemed like capturing his first win of the season as the weather deteriorated during the second round. After Peter and Cathal finished with the same 36 hole total, it was Butler who lifted the trophy thanks to his better second round.