Amateur titles just the tip of the iceberg for ambitious O’Keeffe

John Craven
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Amateur titles just the tip of the iceberg for ambitious O’Keeffe

Peter O'Keeffe pictured with the Raymond Trophy (Home Internationals), the Irish Close Trophy and the Douglas Scratch Cup which he won on Sunday. Picture: Niall O'Shea

It’s a photo sure to be framed for the mantlepiece of the O’Keeffe household to be admired for many years to come; a proud Peter perched behind the gleaming Home Internationals Trophy, the Irish Amateur Close Trophy and the Douglas Scratch Cup – the sparkle of the silverware only outdone by the Cork man’s beaming grin.

“The last few weeks have been great,” O’Keeffe says, one way to describe a landmark summer where he first captured the AIG Irish Close title, beating Rob Moran in a playoff at Tullamore, before teaming with Moran en route to victory at the Home Internationals with Ireland, and then adding the icing to the cake with a first victory at a historic Douglas Scratch Cup.

There, Douglas Golf Club, home to fellow internationals Karl Bornemann and Sara Byrne, broke down barriers to host the first mixed scratch cup in Ireland with O’Keeffe, who pushed for the inclusive event from the outset, justifying home favouritism to finally get over the line on his own turf.

“It was lovely – I’d never won it. I was actually reminded I’d been second eight times at the weekend,” he says. “But look, I suppose the nice side of it was being involved in the decision to make it male and female. We had a lovely field and we had a lot of players outside of Cork so we’re trying to push that event, for want of a better comparison, to be the Mullingar Scratch Cup of male and female scratch cups next year.

“But no, it’s lovely. I suppose in anything, if you show up as the favourite and win, it’s an added bonus that you dealt with that expectation and delivered.”

Peter O’Keeffe receiving the Douglas Scratch Cup from Kieran Canty (sponsor) and Dave Clehane, Captain Douglas Golf Club.
Picture: Niall O’Shea

For O’Keeffe, who turns forty in November, this run of success is no surprise given the ongoing work he puts into his golf game on a daily basis. O’Keeffe’s Golf Performance business has flourished since lockdown with his online ‘Golf Strong’ classes receiving a huge uptake from elite players to your average club golfer hoping to improve. By consequence, O’Keeffe is in a position to practice what he preaches with his passion for fitness having a hugely positive impact on his game.

“This is obviously disguised as a plug for my business but I’m in such great golf shape at the moment,” he says. “I’m forty in November but I feel faster than ever, my swing speed has never been quicker. I’ve been working a lot on my own mobility and a lot of that is down to doing a lot of classes during lockdown.

“I’m in really good shape, and on top of that I’ve put a lot of good work in with Noel Fox over the summer. I’ve been swinging it well and my attitude on the golf course has been good too so it’s all led to a bit more consistency and a better confidence around golf as well.”

For O’Keeffe, the day job feeds into his life as one of Ireland’s elite amateurs, and vice versa. Playing good golf is good for business. He’s a walking advertisement for his own brand. Still one of the most powerful players on the circuit as the big 4-0 approaches, it’s that experience and longevity of success that many people seek out in Peter. They want to know his secrets, and O’Keeffe is happy to share.

“It’s important for me to be competitive,” he explains. “I ask myself loads of times ‘how long can I keep going at a high level’ but my competitiveness doesn’t seem to wane at all.

“I’m still one of the longest hitters on the amateur scene which is great. That certainly attracts a lot of elite players my way in terms of what has worked in my own training because I’ve tried the lot on my own body.

“I might spot a player with a similar body shape to me or length of limb or height etc and I might suggest things that work for them or I’ve had players with different body shapes and heights who have approached me this year because obviously everybody’s different, but they know I’m doing these things for myself so it’s easy for players to come to me and at least ask my opinion on things which I enjoy sharing.”

“I’m just in the habit of it. Even at Home Internationals, it’s a very tiring week. Friday afternoon I was mentally tired and I lost the match badly but physically, I’m playing a practice round and the next morning I’m in the gym and in fairness, it was good to see the other players in the gym as well going through activations and warm ups and it does stand to you.”

O’Keeffe has embraced his increasing position as a role model for players to aspire to, and one who they can go to for advice. He still sets a stern benchmark in terms of standards but even after collecting individual honours at the Close and back home in Douglas, his Home Internationals success hit differently – that special feeling of wearing green and being part of a collective unit – an experience he’s treasuring more and more with each passing year.

“I’m realistic. I know I’m not going to be on Irish teams forever,” he says. “As I said, I’ll be forty in November so I suppose I get a bit of a kick from seeing who the up and comers are.

“Rob Moran played unbelievable golf – he led from the front and wanted to be out front which was great for him. Other players I hadn’t really seen before like Jack McDonnell fit into the team really well. TJ Ford was another. Liam Nolan did really well under pressure against England. All those guys – it’s all due to them.

“For me being the oldest guy on the team, it’s about being there for them if anything is needed. You come back to your club then and you’re telling young lads about the week and you can see all they want to do is play for Ireland so that brings it home. It’s really nice to be involved in that.”

For O’Keeffe, who at one time in his career tried his hand at the pro circuit and had dreams of making it on the European Tour, life is pretty great right now. It might lack the limelight of Tour stardom but there’s a wholesomeness to it, a deep satisfaction from a business he’s built from the ground up to a playing career that continues to flourish

“I don’t have any regrets whatsoever,” he says. “I was only saying it to one of the guys I was playing last week for Wales. He was thinking about turning pro and that question always seems to come to me.

“I remember thinking about it after telling him my story and thinking, I actually don’t have any regrets. I gave it everything I had at the time and I think I made the right decision at the time. But business is a passion of mine anyway so I think I have the best of both worlds now – I can still play competitively and be involved in golf from a business standpoint. Life’s great at the moment.”

If you want to see how Peter can help you improve your game, why not sign up for online membership at Golf Strong with two courses currently available? There is a ladies class on Monday and Thursday at 9.15am and an evening mixed class on Monday and Wednesday at 7.30pm. More information can be found HERE

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