Mairead Martin recently enjoyed a few weeks at home after an exciting few months in the US on a golf scholarship in Kentucky. The Kanturk golfer who completed her leaving cert in June and in August she moved to start with their acclaimed womens golf programme. It was a great first semester, Mairead finished the second highest ranked golfer on the roster claiming two top ten finishes on her first five tournaments. It was a busy few months for the teenager as she settled into her new home for the next few years. “The first couple of weeks were tough and quite intense it took a while for me to get used to how busy each day was between school, practice and workouts” explained Mairead. “I struggled to find time to even think about home or even be homesick. When I arrived in Louisville the team and coaches couldn’t have been more welcoming, I was both nervous and excited but they made it so easy for me to transition. They always made sure to go the extra mile and check in to see how I was doing with the move.” Mairead only started playing golf when she was 11, and she’s improved every year. In 2017 she was playing off +2 when she won the Irish Girls Close and helped Ireland win the Ladies Home Internationals. Given the level she has played at for the past few years, a move the US was no surprise when she announced it early last year.
One major attraction of the US college system is the access to facilities and coaching, and of course suitable training weather. Access to facilities and coaching is one positive but the expectations are high too. There is a tough schedule for all of the students in the various athletic programmes, and the same applies to the golfers. The training and practice programme is built around the academic timetable. “The facilities are unbelievable, and we have everything we could possibly need” added Mairead who won the Lahinch Scratch Cup last year. “The coaches are extremely motivating and they are committed to helping us get better as people and players. Our practice times depend on our class schedules, for example last semester we had classes in the morning Mon, Wed and Fri, which meant practice in the afternoons and then Tuesdays and Thursdays was practice in the morning usually starting at 8am with classes in the afternoon.” This dedication to the sport was new for Mairead.
While she was involved with several ILGU high performance groups, access to this level of training is a great opportunity. “It’s fairly intense but it is definitely worth it. I can already see improvements in my game. Practice is very structured and there are always challenges that we have to do which helps to see where we need to improve. Then the weekends were usually the tournaments with some off days, which we usually spend at the course through our own choice. During season we work out twice a week and during off season four times a week.”
With a team of 11 golfers, making the tournament team can be a big ask for each of the events on the Louisville schedule. It a tough process but having been on several Munster and Irish teams, Mairead is familiar with the task at hand.
“Before tournaments we have to ‘qualify’ for the team which usually means playing 3/4 rounds and the lowest 5 scorers go to the tournament. I have been fortunate to train with a lot of Irish panels and I think the way that we do things in Ireland and America are much the same with a bigger emphasis on ‘on course’ progress and scores because the season is more compact in America. I think a mixture of both for me has really helped me improve my game. Going in to the last tournament we were kind of disappointed with our season as none of us felt we had hit any form we were just kind of playing average so to win the last tournament boosted our confidence as even then we didn’t really do anything special. For me I was happy with how I transitioned into college golf as just getting used to the different grasses which was a bit of a challenge. I played really consistently all season and there are still some really big gaps to fill in my game which is really positive.”
Christmas at home for Mairead
With the fall series of tournaments completed by the end of October, Mairead had a chance to focus on study and on practice. The break also gave her a chance to come back home for Christmas to catch up with family and friends. “I came home for three and a half weeks and I’ve been practicing and working with my coach Mark Heinemann on tweaking areas of my game. I’ve played a few times around Kanturk with my dad and younger sister. While also spending a lot of time with family and friends. It’s a good break to have some rest and relaxation before I go back to a very busy spring season. I’m really excited about the season we are going to some really cool places such as the Dominican Republic. At the moment I think I will have a pretty light summer schedule when I come home.” With tournament wins under her belt in both 2017 and 2018, as we as winning the key match in the 2017 home internationals, Mairead has already experienced the high levels in elite girls and ladies golf. With Louisville now ranked in the top thirty nationally, they have every chance of picking up a win or two in the Spring series. Don’t be too surprised if her name features in reports from the spring or summer.
Mairead is the third Cork golfer to be involved with Louisville. Aaron O’Callaghan was a senior associate coach with the mens golf programme until his recent move to Wake Forest. Kinsale’s John Murphy is in his second year in Louisville and like Mairead he two is enjoying the twin approach to the academic and golfing sides. While Murphy is in his third year of a Marketing degree, Mairead has still to decide on her area of study. “I haven’t picked a major yet and I’m just doing general studies right now, I will have to make the decision by second year. Whatever the North Cork teenager selects, she’ll have three more years to work on her studies and her game in Louisville.