Dr. Liam Hennessy, one of Ireland’s most renowned Strength and Conditioning coaches, was recently inducted into the Titleist Performance Institute’s Hall of Fame and we caught up with him to find out what it means to him to be honoured among some of the greats of his industry.
A Grand Slam, three Majors, an All-Ireland hurling title, an international athletics career, an academic career, founder of Ireland’s leading sports college – just some of the achievements that come to mind when trying to sum up who exactly Dr Liam Hennessy is. He is however, best known for being Padraig Harrington’s Fitness Coach, and Liam received a further accolade earlier this month when he was inducted into the Titleist Performance Institute’s Hall of Fame.
Can you give us a brief insight into your approach to working with Padraig Harrington?
I have been very fortunate and privileged to be Padraig Harrington’s fitness coach for over 20 years. In these years we have relied on a number of key principles that target longevity at the highest level of play as a key goal. In seeking to achieve this, we place great reliance on key principles, and the most important of these becomes that of individualisation as the athlete matures. For us it is also very important to have a network and support system that supports what we are doing but also shares the same philosophy. That approach or philosophy is simply a recognition of the uniqueness of the individual athlete.
Talk to us about your association with the Titleist Performance Institute.
One of the most progressive groups that we encountered in the early 2000’s was the newly created Titleist Performance Institute. I was introduced to the founders of TPI by Padraig. For the last 15 years we have learned so much through our collaboration – not only with the co-founders Dr. Greg Rose and Dave Phillips, but with their hugely committed team and their extensive network of coaches, medics, athletic trainers, fitness coaches and advisory members.
Their bespoke facility, established in 1997, has now grown to a 33-acre research and development facility in Oceanside, California. Dare I say it could be considered the hub of not just the TPI education programme but of a philosophy that could be applied not just to the sport and activity of golf, but to so many other sports. Specifically, the TPI offers technical and tactical coaching, lifestyle management as well as bespoke golf analysis, functional screening and club fitting services and their certified education programmes that has made a great impact on how golfers prepare their bodies and minds to play and to stay playing at their best. What I really like is that they recognise and promote the link of the uniqueness of a physical body (and indeed mind) to the golfer’s swing. TPI’s brand is a worldwide recognised one and it is now common practice to have a team of TPI Certified practitioners amongst a PGA player’s staff and team.
You were recently inducted into the TPI Hall of Fame what does this mean to you?
I was very flattered and very gracious for this award. To be on a list of inductees that I have admired as great coaches, sport medics, biomechanists and fitness specialists is a great honour.
Tell us about your direct involvement with TPI?
My direct involvement with TPI started with several visits to the Ocenaside facility in the early 2000’s with Padraig. Also, I was part of a small group of golf coaches including Padraig’s brother Tadhg, Noel Fox, John Kelly and Shane Lawlor (Padraig’s chiropractor) to take the early TPI certified programmes.
Dr Greg and Dave at all times were and are very generous in their time and their willingness to share, explore and try out different approaches to getting the best out of any level of golfer. They were really the first group to bring 3-D golf swing movement (kinematic) analysis out of the lab and into the real world. We learned so much from the hours spent setting up, capturing the kinematic sequence of the golfer as Padraig and other golfers completed these tests. They brought science and practical coaching together and really were pioneers in this.
I was fortunate to be invited to present at their World Summit on a number of occasions as well as to sit on their Advisory Board. As I mentioned, the TPI team really take their science and practice seriously but also craft it into a very useful, individualised and effective model of performance. I guess one of my contributions to TPI was to introduce many more dynamic training and recovery approaches and methods for the golfer that would enhance performance while reducing injury risk. Also, I was fortunate to help the team create the Junior Golf pathway of development. This pathway has had a very strong impact on the approach now used worldwide to shape future golfers and to date TPI has played a hugely significant role in ensuring that methods are ‘stage of development’ appropriate.
Finally, and I am not being biased but I would encourage any fitness coach who wishes to get involved in conditioning or coaching the golfer regardless of age, be they interested in Junior golf, teenage, or adult or senior golf to pursue a TPI certification.