As the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open rolls into Lahinch next month, thousands of people from Ireland and beyond will descend on the picturesque town in County Clare.
Two weeks later, action moves five hours north to Portrush, where the 148th edition of the Open Championship, golf’s fourth major of the year, takes place, again highlighting the beauty and attraction of Ireland’s golf courses.
In fact, over 200,000 overseas visitors play golf during their visit to Ireland every year, contributing almost €270 million to the economy and driving over 1.7 million bed nights across the country.
As a result of this, a number of Irish golf tour operators have come to the fore in recent years, and with Ireland proving such an exceptional golf destination, as well as offering unrivalled attractions off the course, it is easy to see why.
One of the men at the centre of golf tourism in the country is Maurice O’Meara. After a brief stint in the commercial world with Kerry GAA, the Kerry native is back working with his beloved golf, leading Discover Ireland Golf Tours.
O’Meara is a former general manager at Killarney Golf and Fishing Club where he worked for nearly seven years, before leading the charge at Island Golf Club (2013-2015) and Dooks Golf Club in beautiful Glenbeigh from 2015 to present.
Speaking on the eve of the Irish Open, O’Meara said: “Its great to see the market buoyant again after some difficult years in the industry due to worldwide economic conditions. Demand is very high and we are already focussing on the 2020 season , with bookings and tours already in place up to October 2020.
“The next few weeks are huge for Irish golf with the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open being at Lahinch and the Open Championship at Royal Portrush. The golf industry in Ireland will be in very strong position following these events.”
His love of the sport has been evident since first lifting a golf club at aged-12, and his latest venture has combined a passion for both golf and business. It was the next natural step for a man who has worked closely with both tour operators and visitors over the years in his respective roles.
Discover Ireland Golf Tours focuses on the attributes of welcoming and looking after visiting golfers to the island of Ireland, and facilitates them in finding and enjoying the best of courses that the country has to offer.
The company is mainly targeting North America, Canada, Scandinavia and the UK. Bespoke services include in-house PGA professionals available for escorted tours/tuition, and 24-hour concierge services during a golfer’s trip to Ireland.
“We are also running a number of unique events in the shoulder months which will be mainly focussed at the domestic market and will be hosted in our partner clubs here in the south west namely Killarney Golf & Fishing Club and Dooks Golf Links,” said O’Meara.
“We have strategically partnered with agents in the UAE and stateside in Tampa , New York, Ohio, Dallas and San Francisco, we will be working closely with these partners to provide tours and showcase the best that Ireland has to offer in all things golf.
“It is important for clubs to communicate fully and accurately with members, staff and all key stakeholders. Helping clubs manage their communication strategies and sales and marketing plans will be one of our specialties at Irish Golf Consultancy.”
Further details are available at www.discoverirelandgolftours.com.
MAURICE’S FIVE FAVOURITE COURSES
Waterville Golf Club
Dooks Golf Club
Killarney Golf & Fishing Club
Lahinch Golf Club
The Island Golf Club
Brooks Koepka will be bidding to defend his PGA Championship title on Thursday as the second major of the year gets under way at Bethpage Black Course in New York.
Here, we look at five talking points ahead of the tournament.
Can Koepka retain PGA Championship?
The World No2 is shaping himself into becoming an unstoppable force over the last two years, combining a devastating game off the tee with a razor-sharp short game.
A win this weekend would mean the Florida man holds four of the last eight majors played, with one of the others being a T2 finish at the Masters last month.
Players like Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods may be household names in America, but Koepka certainly deserves serious recognition among the golf public after being underrated in the game for so long.
Remarkably, he is 55-under par in the last 10 majors held – 15 shots better than any other player in that span.
It’s time to start taking this man seriously. He’s a class act.
How is Tiger looking after Masters triumph?
Tiger looked back to his scorching best after clinching a 15th major at Augusta last month, but the significant question will be whether he can carry his sterling form into the second major of the year.
The Jupiter resident has enjoyed tremendous success at the Farmingdale course over the years with victory at the 2002 US Open and a top-10 at the 2009 US Open.
Out of the top performing professionals with at least eight competitive rounds at Bethpage, Woods has the third best scoring average, behind Jason Day and Louis Oosthuizen.
If there is anything to make you believe the iconic American will deliver this weekend, he has only won the year’s first two majors once in his career, and that was back in 2002, when they were staged at Augusta National and Bethpage Black.
Will Spieth complete career grand slam?
Since leaving Augusta ranked number three in the world last year, Jordan Spieth has slipped to 39th in the rankings and is looking devoid of confidence over short putts.
In fact, the 25-year-old has not achieved a top-10 finish in nearly nine months – stretching back to the British Open at Carnoustie in mid-July.
And, while there has been little evidence to suggest he could compete for a career grand slam this weekend, his last performance at Bethpage Black should give him some confidence, finishing in a tie for 10th back in 2016.
Perhaps a solid weekend with improved putting could elevate his confidence and overall game management back to a position where it should be.
Rory hitting top form
The best player in the world at the moment.
A blazing start to the season has seen Rory McIlroy win at the Players Championship, finish second in Mexico and clinch three top-5s and three top-10s from nine starts.
The 30-year-old currently leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained/tee to green and he recorded the second biggest victory of the season at Sawgrass in March.
The Northern Irishman has not secured a top-10 finish at the PGA Championship since winning Valhalla in 2014. But back to his immaculate best, McIlroy should be in serious contention this weekend.
Will America’s dominance at majors continue?
Tiger Woods’ victory at Augusta last month means American players currently hold six of the last eight majors, with Sergio Garcia and Francesco Molinari’s respective wins at the Masters and the Open being the only two held by European players since April 2017.
American players’ strong hold on the PGA Championship is also tight, winning the last three tournaments.
Based on current form, it’s difficult to see America golf’s dominance being toppled in New York this weekend or at the US Open now next month either.
The wait continues.
Defending US PGA champion Brooks Koepka has set himself the target of winning at least 10 majors.
The 29-year-old has three to his name but after winning back-to-back US Opens last year, he is looking to repeat that feat with his PGA title at Bethpage this week.
“I’ve got a number. I don’t see why you can’t get to double digits,” said the American, who was a joint runner-up to Tiger Woods at last month’s Masters, when asked at a press conference whether he had a target in mind.
“I think you keep doing what you’re supposed to do, you play good, you peak at the right times. I think sometimes the majors are the easiest ones to win.
“Half the people shoot themselves out of it, and mentally I know I can beat most of them, and then from there it’s those guys left, who’s going to play good and who can win.
“I don’t see any reason it can’t get to double digits.”
It was a bold statement but Koepka has shown over the last two years he has the game and the temperament for the big occasion.
In his last 10 major appearances he has finished outside the top 13 just once, with three victories and three other top-five placings.
But having been denied by Woods at Augusta a month ago, he was asked whether he was concerned about a resurgence from his near-neighbour in Jupiter, Florida.
“I mean, what’s the point in fearing anybody? We’re not fighting,” he added.
“He’s not going to knock my teeth in. He’s not going to hurt me. So what’s there to be afraid of?
“I don’t see it as a rivalry. I mean, it’s just golf. It’s not like it’s been over 20, 30 years, it’s just really been the last couple of years.
“It is fun to play against him – the best player to ever play the game, and you guys (the media) wanting to talk about rivalry, I think that’s pretty cool to hear.
“It’s exciting for me. It’ll definitely be interesting. But I’m just looking forward to this week, to playing with him.”