David Keating’s Drive for Cork Golf Centre [Long Read]

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Francis Courtney, Stephen Hoey, Liam Burns, Wayne O’Callaghan, Brendan McDaid and David Keating pictured at Cork Golf Centre. Picture: Niall O’Shea

Cork golfers now have access to a new practice facility  with the opening of the Cork Golf Centre in Ballincollig.  The “one stop shop” is essentially a range, but the key difference will be the presence of several PGA Professionals along with a fitness and mindset coach.  Brendan McDaid is making a welcome return to Cork (on a part time basis at least) and he will be joined by Liam Burns, Stephen Hoey and Wayne O’Callaghan.  All four will combine their existing commitments with the new facility in Ballincollig, using the newly fitted teaching bay and short game area to work with golfers of all levels.  O’Callaghan and Burns are both based in Cork, and McDaid is based in Dublin while Stephen Hoey is primarily based in Killarney.  The concept is the work of Killarney’s Head Professional David Keating and he has been working hard to pull together all of the moving parts.  For Keating it marks a return to a former place of work, the Charleville native worked in the Inniscarra Driving Range when he was working under Paddy O’Boyle.  Keating was actually looking at a new venture in a very different direction when the opportunity in Ballincollig arose.  “We were looking at getting involved in a range in Spain or Portugal where we could send our Pros for the winter months” explained Keating.

Cork Golf Centre April 2017_1“By coincidence at that time I was approached about Inniscarra.  Having worked there previously for Paddy O’Boyle I knew that it had potential but as everyone knows the golf business is changing dramatically and many facilities including Inniscarra have really struggled in the recent past.”  Keating’s approach isn’t simply to reopen the range.  Although a huge amount of work has taken place to improve the physical appearance of the range, the real key to the venture is the addition of a number of top class teaching professionals and coaches.  “We set about creating a new business model which we term a “one stop shop for golf” says Keating.  “We will have 4 PGA Professionals operating on site.  All of the Pro’s have a base elsewhere but they have agreed to spend one or two days per week coaching at our facility. We also have a Titleist Performance Institute certified coach on site as well a mindset performance coach.  Most ranges have one or maybe two PGA Pros attached, we are trying something new in Munster with a four teaching professionals.  Our TPI Centre is the first of its kind in a driving range in Cork and specific physical conditioning will benefit the higher handicap player as well as the low digit and elite player.”

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Cork Golf Centre April 2017_5Keating himself started playing golf in Charleville and after serving his time with Paddy O’Boyle in Bandon, he returned to Charleville as head pro.  Over the course of 10 years he built a sound reputation as a top class coach with many golfers travelling from Cork city for lessons with Keating.  He was one of the early adopters when technology came to golf and was one of the first to have the early video and radar solutions.  In 2008, Keating moved to Killarney Golf & Fishing Club as Head Professional.  Although it’s widely acknowledged as a having been a tough time for the business, Keating worked hard and now runs the on course pro-shop, a busy teaching academy and a second golf shop in the town centre.  Getting the right coaches on board at Cork Golf Centre has been the key objective in the planning phase for David.  As head professional in one of the busiest resorts in Munster, Keating has worked with a large number of professionals, as well as being involved with the PGA Irish Region.  “Having worked in the golf business for 25 years I have been lucky enough to have come across so many quality people in the industry” explained Keating.  “Indeed some of my Assistant Pros have done exceptionally well and people like Dan Sugrue, Enrique Soto and Ian Colleran are now Head Club Professionals.  Others like Michael Collins, Billy O’Boyle and John Dolan have become experts in their chosen fields.  My current team of Stephen Hoey (Former Bahrain National coach) and my two Assistant Pros Diarmaid Fraser and Mark Beckett will be heavily involved in Cork in the Winter with Stephen playing a year round roll.  They will be joined by Brendan McDaid, Liam Burns & Wayne O’ Callaghan who will form a strong backbone for the operation.  Our TPI/S&C Coach is Francis Courtney.  Francis is an excellent golfer and I have known him since he was a junior golfer in Killarney.  He also works with us in Killarney and his results with some of my students have been remarkable.”  Neil O’Brien joins the team as a performance coach, O’Brien has over two decades of experience and has worked with Ryder Cup and Walker Cup stars.

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dwyers-3d-techAlthough golf has gone through a few tough years David is optimistic about the sport; “I firmly believe that most golfers want to improve and it is my opinion that coaching has become much better over the last five years due to advancements in technology and education.  A golf lesson that we give now is light years ahead of what it was only three years ago.  Our coaches have Trackman, high speed cameras and 3D equipment on site to help players with the long game, but we will also be working extremely hard on wedge play and putting. We also want to get new people into the game and beginners classes will play a big part.  Junior golf coaching will play a massive part in our master plan.”  Having spent almost a decade in Killarney, David was very much aware if some of the challenges that faced both himself and the professionals and assistants that work with him: “Killarney is a fantastic place and I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.  Like all resort Clubs the vast majority of our business is done between April and October. The pace in that period is hectic and we need a significant amount of staff to cover our operation.  However things get much quieter in the Winter and we had been looking for a facility to keep our Pros busy over the winter period.  If we can’t provide work for PGA pros on a year round basis they just move on and it can be difficult to replace them.”

Having come through a generation where Irish golfers were regularly featuring on the European and International stage, David hopes that the one stop shop approach that’s available from Cork Golf Centre may help a Cork golfer to bridge the gap from talented or elite amateur to tour standard professional.  “As a Corkman I feel that it is a massive disappointment that we haven’t had anyone from Cork on the European Tour since John McHenry and Eoghan O’ Connell” said David.  “Niall Turner is making great progress but we believe that we can play a big part in developing players at our Centre that can make it to the top level.  By opening golf up to the masses and giving talented young boys and girls the chance to get lessons from our experts will be a major step forward. Who knows, the next golfing superstar might come from Cork Golf Centre, wouldn’t that be a story!”

Wayne Excited by Ballincollig Move

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Wayne O’Callaghan demonstrating some swing pointers at Cork Golf Centre. Picture: Niall O’Shea

Carrigaline based Wayne O’Callaghan is very excited about the opening of Cork Golf Centre, the PGA Advanced Professional had built an impressive based in Fernhill over the past three years, particularly focusing on his junior academy.  Unfortunately for O’Callaghan, his link with Fernhill ended last year so Cork Golf Centre provides him with a new base.  “I’m excited to develop my junior program in Ballincollig, a town with a massive population” said O’Callaghan.  I intend on starting new classes in Ballincollig straight away.  The current junior academy is growing all the time and I now have 6 classes a week in Raffeen Creek Golf Club and intend on building on that in Ballincollig. The theme of the junior academy is to create a fun learning environment and the facility in Ballincollig will have a closed off area for juniors to practice.”  Wayne was awarded the PGA Advanced Professional designation last year and previously trained under the TPI Junior Golf programme where he reached level 3 certification.  As a result he has a deep understanding of what’s required for a really great junior golf system.  “When I took the TPI course the theme was always to have a team in place” explained Wayne.  “Students could have access not only to a golf coach but also a fitness professional and performance coach who is also working from Cork Golf Centre.  It offers far more than any other facility as we have it all under one roof.”  Wayne is another student of Paddy O’Boyle, who has created an impressive legacy, many of the current leading PGA professionals in Cork and Munster trained under Bandon based Paddy.  “I have known David Keating for nearly 23 years, from when I worked with him while training in Bandon Golf Club.  David approached me with the idea and I jumped at it when I heard about his idea to develop the Cork Golf Centre into Ireland premier golf coaching facility.  We met up and David was open to every idea to create a state of the art teaching facility.  Bringing Francis Courtney and Neil O Brien on board will provide students with more than just swing sessions.”

O’Callaghan has worked hard over the past eight years.  In a tough time for golf, Wayne carved out a niche with his junior academy in addition to working with individuals and groups at all levels and he sees a positive future for the game: “The market has definitely turned a corner with people taking up golf again and wanting to improve their games.  Time seems to be the biggest issue now facing the industry and I believe more 9 and 12 hole events should be introduced by clubs and this would help grow the game.”

McDaid back to teach in Cork

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Brendan McDaid using a piece of rope as one of his training aids during a demonstration at Cork Golf Centre. Picture: Niall O’Shea

Brendan McDaid is a name synonymous with golf in Cork, he built a stellar reputation as a leading teaching professional long before any of the new coaching tools were developed.  Having worked in Frankfield and Lee Valley, Brendan moved to Rathsallagh in 1999 to set up his Brendan McDaid Golf Academy.  In the early years in Dublin he was working with Peter Lawrie and Gary Murphy when they both were European Tour players.

Brendan was one of the early adopters when it came to technology, investing in ASTAR which was one of the first generation of video analysis systems.  Brendan has kept up hi interest in technology and at a demo in Ballincollig recently he had two iPads, a Trackman and a 3D system all set up.  Brendan’s approach seems to be grounded in solutions, in addition to the advanced technology, Brendan has some more basic training aids.  One is a tennis racket that’s attached to a golf shaft with cable ties, another is simply a rope.  “Most amateurs want to hit the ball further, straighter and more consistent” explained McDaid.  “When you ask your average golfer what they want to get from the lesson, a very common answer is I’ve no problem with my irons, but can’t hit my driver.  I usually say I’d like to get a couple of 7 irons and a few drivers on video.  After they hit say 2 shots with each club, they often tell me that they’re normally able to hit the irons better than that.  I find normally, what you do with a 7 iron is magnified with a driver.  I then set out sorting out the issues with the 7 iron and then go to the driver.  I find the rope is very good for giving the golfer the feel for the correct sequence in the downswing.  Trackman a great help to understand where their face of the club is pointing to at impact and when I explain how to change it, usually as the lesson goes on, the student and I can see the numbers improve.”  Most golfers like to see the number and stats that Trackman can produce, however don’t be surprised if Brendan has you swinging a rope or a tennis racket, there’s an important teaching principle behind it.  Like all of the coaches involved with Cork Golf Centre, Brendan is excited about the venture: “I want to compliment David Keating for the hard work he’s putting in, in getting it right. It’s a great facility and hopefully I can help make it a success.  I left Cork in 1999, and I’m really looking forward to coming back to do one day a week to start with, and we’ll see how it goes.”

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