Sara Byrne might only be 16, but in the past two years she blazed a trail on the golf courses of Cork and further afield. The Douglas member has represented Munster, Ireland and GB&I in 2017, and more importantly she has seen her golf game improve on several levels. While Sara has been used to winning, and she has ben part of the IGU coaching programmes for a few years, 2017 was a breakthrough year and she’s planning to build on that through the winter and into next season. “I have some great memories this year including winning the Munster girls championship, getting my first cap for Ireland, becoming an honorary member of Douglas Golf Club and shooting the course record of five under 67 in Douglas” said Sara. “But my best memory was seeing the Irish tricolour being raised and the Irish anthem being played when I was playing for Great Britain and Ireland at the Vagliano Trophy in Italy.” Those experiences and performances didn’t happen by accident, they were a result of a very strong work ethic and a focus on constant improvement. And the young Douglas golfer saw the results on the course. “I think my ball striking this year has improved dramatically since last year and I have also gained a lot more distance with my clubs” explained Sara. “This has led to me hitting more greens in regulation and giving myself a lot more birdie chances and suddenly the game seems much easier.” The improvement wasn’t an accident, it was a result of hard work on and off the course as she explained: “I have been going to the gym and have been involved with ILGU panels since I was 11 years old, so this has given me some great building blocks. However, this year my coaching programs have been much more focussed on my individual needs to improve my weaknesses. There is no question that without the professional help of the Mardyke Arena Emerging Talent programme and team of Jeff Gomez, Sarah Cunningham and Fred Twomey I would not have progressed and achieved as much as I have in 2017.”
The on course performances were impressive from the start, she was third in the Carlow Scratch Cup in M arch, shooting -2 in her second round. In April she captained Ireland when they beat Wales in an U-16 international match and she also claimed the runners-up spot at the Munster Ladies where she won the Munster Girls title. In May she finished third in the Fairhaven Trophy in Lytham and after her junior cert in June she had a top ten finish at the Irish Women’s Close in Mullingar. The second half of the Summer saw Sara represent Ireland at the Junior Vagliano, the European Team Championship, the Girls Home Internationals and the European Young Masters. She was also the runner-up at the Irish Girls Plate and she won the Girlie Hegarty on her home course shooting a 67. Douglas Club Professional Stephen Hayes has watched Sara progress from when she started playing and he’s not surprised with the success that she has achieved. “The first thing that stood out to me when I met Sara seven years ago was that she was very talented, but more importantly she had a great attitude and dedication to her game” said Hayes. “Sara is always looking to make improvements to her game. 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. Sara has always taken a holistic approach to her game and has never been afraid to seek out advice and guidance from specialists in the game and has been helped over the years by Luke Dennehy (Dennehys Fitness) and the team involved in the ILGU Horizon and High Performance programmes. She also has a great personality and great person to be around. It’s also very apparent that Sara’s parents Derek and Michelle are very supportive of her ambitions and would give her the best opportunity to achieve her goals.”
Despite the fact that it’s the off season, Sara continues to put the time on both on and off the course. Having seen the benefits of hard work through the 2017 playing season, she’s already working towards next year with an impressive programme of work. “I am in the gym with the Mardyke Arena emerging talent team three times a week for strength and conditioning” said Sara, “and I spend most of my weekends in Fota practicing. I have also added a skills coach, Dr Ed Coughlan to ensure I preform to the best of my ability going forward. I see my swing coach, Fred Twomey quite often also. I have learned in 2017 that I played too many tournaments and got burnt out towards the end of the season, so in 2018 I need to play in less events to ensure I am energised and perform well in events on the ILGU and R&A circuit. I hope to progress in 2018 as much as I did in 2017.” Such is Sara’s vision and planning, she’s already identified the 17 key events she plans to play in next season. Given her work ethic and the team she’s surrounded by, Sara will certainly be one to watch in 2018.