In some circles he might be known as the coach to Amateur Champions James Sugrue, but there’s a lot more to PGA Professional Michael Collins than just his star pupil. Collins has spent close to 20 years working in the industry. Firstly he served his time as a trainee before going on to become a leading player in the Irish Region, and more recently he has become one of the few full time teaching professionals in the region. Over the past two decades Michael Collins has built a strong reputation as a leading coach, working with juniors and beginners in addition to some of the top elite amateurs in the game. After an impressive amateur spell, Collins took to the paid ranks after completing a degree in UCC. From there he never looked back, from serving his time as a trainee in Charleville to setting up his teaching business in Mallow Driving Range. “I graduated from UCC with a BA in French and Geography and then I took a year out to pursue my golf” explained Collins. “During that year, David Keating offered me the opportunity to do the PGA course as an assistant in Charleville GC. After thinking it over for a while and discussing it with my parents, I said yes and, thankfully have never looked back.” Keating, who is now based at the Cork Golf Centre outside Ballincollig has trained several apprentices, firstly in Charleville and later in Killarney where he was head professional for over ten years.
Collins credits Keating with nurturing his love of the game and working in the industry. “David is one of life’s true gentleman and I learned a huge amount from him, from coaching to his positive approach to life and dealing with people. He was very accommodating when I got playing opportunities which was huge as I was able to work my way into the Order of Merit. I had some success at regional level, winning my fair share of Pro Ams and also winning the Irish Club Professionals Championship in 2012 which I really enjoyed. Ultimately, I played my way inside the top eight of the Irish Order of Merit on three occasions which rewarded me with Irish open spots from 2010 to 2012.”
The recession had a big effect on the Irish Region PGA events, fewer events and crucially smaller purses meant that you had twice as many golfers playing for half of the money. It was around that time in 2013 that Michael focused more of his efforts on building the coaching and teaching side of the business, branding it as the Michael Collins Golf School. Based in the Copstown Driving Range outside Mallow, Collins found himself ideally positioned to provide coaching across most of Munster and have clients from Cork, Kerry, Limerick and Tipperary travelling to his base at the range. Since then he has worked with many golfers from beginners to top players. Of course Michael’s most famous student is James Sugrue who won the Amateur Championship in Portmarnock in June. Collins and Sugrue go back a long way, to when he first picked up a club over 11 years ago. “I have worked with him since he started playing golf. Speaking to coaches from GAA and Rugby, he was a very good athlete from early on and was working at a high level across a number of sports. There was a very good group of players in Mallow Golf Club when he was growing up due to the coaching programme that was run by Jo Foley at Mallow Golf Range so he was always being challenged as he would have had a few older lads who would have been in his group who he would have been competing with in the skills testing I used to do with them etc.
He enjoyed practicing and, as a result, he just kept improving steadily until he made his breakthrough by winning the Connacht Boys U18 when he was just 15. Since then he has just kept working and continued to improve steadily. The recipe for success is no secret for someone with talent, hard work and good attitude. If you have the desire to pursue your goals and are willing to work hard on what you need to improve, then anything is achievable. He has a strong mentality and has showed that steel you need to win on many occasions.”
I enjoy the challenge of improving all players that come to me, whether they are a straight out of the box beginner or a Pro. I am lucky enough to work with some very good players across all ages. I don’t like mentioning individual players. I put up the exceptional results at top level on my Facebook page just to acknowledge players achievements as often the players have put a lot of effort into improving their game and deserve the acknowledgement. It is always exciting to be working with a player who you feel could become a very good golfer. The challenge for the coach is how you improve them steadily and instil a positive mentality and work rate which helps them to enjoy the game while challenging themselves to improve on a consistent basis. One of the most satisfying things about working with people is when I receive a text or photo or call from a player to say thanks for the help after they have won a competition or achieved a personal best score or reached their target handicap for the year.
While working with some of the top golfers in Munster, Michael’s own playing record stands up pretty well. He was runner up in both the Munster and Connacht Boys in the late nineties, and helped Munster to a Boys Interprovincial title in 1997. A year later he was on the Home Internationals team playing in St Andrews. Collins stand out memory from his amateur days was the Mallow win in the Irish Senior Cup in 2001. A huge crowd had travelled from Mallow, and although the team were the Munster Champions, there were outsiders when it came to the national finals. That was a very impressive Senior Cup team, led by the legendary Jimmy Murphy. It included experienced golfers David Finn and Mervyn Owens along with David Conway, Tim O’Mahony and of course Collins. For Michael it was his last event as an amateur and he went out on a high, beating favourites Portmarnock in the final. “I won a Senior Cup with Mallow GC in 2001, winning my seven matches along the way. It was a very enjoyable journey as we had a brilliant group of characters in the team who happened to be very good competitors as well. The atmosphere was brilliant all year long and it was a great way to sign off my amateur career as I signed my PGA papers the day after the final.” What Collins fails to mention is that he captured the winning point in the semi-final when eh won on the 21st hole after a nail-biting struggle with Galway’s David Cunningham. The match went on so late it had to be suspended and resumed the following morning. Although amateur golf was now behind him, Collins was in the top ten on the Irish PGA scene for several years. Winning well over a dozen professional events, Collins proved he was improving with age as he mixed it with the best of the Irish PGA Professionals.
Despite his wins in Ireland, the talented player narrowly missed out on tour golf at the European level. “I played a few seasons on Europro Tour and had a few runs at Q School but never gained my full tour card. The challenge of mixing a competitive playing schedule, practice and keeping my teaching business going to fund my playing career was difficult and a constant battle with back problems ultimately made my decision to stop playing for me in 2013.” Collins looks on that time as a good investment that’s paying dividends now. “Experience is a major asset when you are talking about a particular situation or problem with a player and I feel it definitely helps when I can address different scenarios having experienced them for myself”