Sixteen-year-old Sara Byrne is set to represent Ireland again later this month. The Douglas golfer has been selected to represent Ireland at the European Young Masters later this month. Oslo Golf Club in Norway will host the event over three days and Byrne along with Annabel Wilson were selected as Ireland’s two representatives by the ILGU. Byrne has enjoyed a great season so far, and representing GB&I and Ireland in addition to several impressive individual performances. On the representative front, Byrne was in Italy last week as the GB&I side took on Europe in the Junior Vagliano Trophy. She also represented Ireland in the annual matches against Wales. A large number of notable individual performances has seen her handicap drop from four to one over the first half of the season. She hit the 1 mark in April while playing in the Munster Senior Open in Cork Golf Club. That was an impressive result considering that the Douglas member opened with a disappointing 80. She followed that with rounds of 75 and 73 to take second place overall. She also captured the Munster Girls trophy as the best under eighteen golfer in the field.
In May she travelled to the Fairhaven Trophy in Lancashire where she finished in third place in the girls competition against an impressive international field. She also recorded top three placings in the Lahinch and Carlow scratch cups in the early part of the season. Most recently she had a top ten finish in the Irish Women’s Close. Last week Sara represented Great Britain & Ireland at the Junior Vagliano Trophy when the team was captained by Cork’s Claire Coughlan Ryan. Although they were beaten by an extremely talented European team, it was another learning experience for Sara. Last October Byrne was named in the ILGU Horizon high performance panel, and she was also included in the Mardyke Arena Emerging Talent Programme. The programme offers athletes aged 15-18 access to specialised training and support programmes to help talented athletes to fulfil their potential. Byrne has worked hard on the programmes, managing to complete two sessions a week in conjunction with her other training and playing commitments. The efforts that Sara has made are being rewarded, and her individual successes and the selection on three Irish teams and a GB&I team this year are a good measurement of that.
There will be a strong Cork presence in Finland as Sara will be joined by three other Cork golfers at the European Girls next week. Cork’s Rachel Thompson, Kanturk’s Mairead Martin and Valerie Clancy from Mitchelstown are all preparing for the event. They will however miss out on playing for Munster at the Girls Interprovincials which take place at Shannon Golf Club next week. Gemma Barry from Douglas is the only Cork golfer to feature in that team which is captained by Mallow’s Jennifer Hickey. After the event in Finland next week it’s back home for the Irish Girls Close which takes place in Mallow and then it’s off to Oslo for the Douglas Teenager.
Douglas PGA Professional Stephen Hayes has witnessed Sara’s progression, and having coached her since she started playing he’s ideally placed to comment. “The first thing that stood out to me when I met Sara 7 years ago was that she had a great attitude and dedication to her game” said Stephen. “She was very talented, but her attitude and dedication were more important. Sara’s progress over the past 7 years has been very steady and the main focus of our coaching sessions over those years has been to develop good basic fundamentals in all areas of her game that would allow her to compete at a high level.”
“Sara is always looking to make improvements to her game” added Hayes. “She is very good at keeping detailed stats on her game and this has allowed us to always target the areas of the game that needed improvement. Once she knows what she needs to practice she is not afraid to put in the long hours of practice needed.”
And that work went beyond the course, prior to the Mardyke programme she had been working on her fitness and mobility with Luke Dennehy and Peter O’Keeffe. Hayes credits some of this seasons success to the improvements gained on the Emerging Talent Programme. “Sara has had a lot of success, this year and a huge difference has been her involvement in the ETP in the Mardyke Arena with the help of Jeff Gomez, Sarah Cunningham and Fred Twomey. Sara worked very hard on her strength conditioning over the winter months and this has really seen massive benefits to her game. She now hits the ball much further and her ball striking is much more consistent with more greens in regulation and hitting the ball closer to the hole.”