Shane O’Connell is enjoying a well earned break, the Kinsale man travelled more than most in 2022. Caddying with John Murphy, the 25 year old visited 15 different countries in 2022. That involved two trips to the US, and another two to South Africa. He was on the bag for Murphy in all 34 events this year, and was there to celebrate with him when he qualified for the DP World Tour in November.
Shane jumped on the bag for Murphy in June 2021 when the Walker Cup star turned professional and he hasn’t looked back since. Travel is a central part of tour life and Shane has had to navigate air travel, hotels and rental cars ever before they get to a golf course, and in most cases it will be their first time heading to a new tournament venue. “Overall we try to keep each week as chilled as possible” explained Shane. “One thing John has really grasped is energy preservation and the importance of been fresh for the tournament days. Mondays are normally travel days and then we play 18 on a Tuesday and 9 on a Wednesday if we can. It’s rare that we get to do much sightseeing but in Leopard Creek back in December I was lucky enough to do a Safari on the Wednesday morning at 5am before practice. But John had to skip it as it wouldn’t have been the best preparation for Thursday.”
When it come being a tour caddie, O’Connell has got to grips with the role and has earned a reputation of being one of the hardest working on tour. Now heading into his third season he knows what he needs to do each week. “Most of my work is in the early parts of the week,” said Shane. “It’s all about getting to know the course as best you can. Knowing exactly where you can and can’t hit it. Thankfully John has a Trackman which is very useful, each day in the warmup we get his carry numbers. Then I walk the course before each round to see the pins, this is very useful for picking a club as we know then for example if there is a slope behind the pin or to the left or right of it that we can use or if there is a pin just over a slope we know the carry number to cover the slope.”
While O’Connell and Murphy are good friends, the course is a workplace where decisions need to be made over every shot, and both need to be confident with their approach. “John knows his game very well so we just keep it constant of chatting through each shot and discussing the obvious things of distance/wind/slopes around the hole if any and then where we want to pitch it. Once we chat it through, 9 times out of 10 we will see the same club/shot choice. I was lucky enough to spend time with Cayce Kerr in Pebble Beach back in January. He spoke to me about the importance of adding value to your player and doing everything you can to help them perform.”
Off the course O’Connell has built up his own circle of buddies and they’ll be back together in 2023. “There is a nice little group of 4 or 5 of us that were together for the season on the Challenge Tour and thankfully all of our players progressed to the DP World Tour for 2023 so we can room together again. The Irish caddies are great too and they always look out for each other so it’ll be nice to spend a bit of time with more of them this year. Ever since I met Simon Keelan back in January he couldn’t have been more helpful and it’s been great to catch up with him throughout the year in Dallas, Adare and the Irish Open.”
Back at home, O’Connell still plays a bit of golf and rugby and he was part of the Kinsale team who won the O’Neill Cup in October. “I very much enjoy playing rugby when I’m home, my brother is the Captain and it was nice to win a trophy with the lads while I was home.”
Asked for a favourite event of 2022, Shane narrowed it down to two. “It would be Pebble Beach or the JP McManus Pro Am. They were both at two iconic venues with massive crowds, the atmosphere was great. Adare was like the All-Ireland final of golf with the crowds and just the set up of the whole event was surreal. Looking back on 2022 I’ve been very lucky to be next John for some amazing moments and I’ve no doubt 2023 will be even better.”