Portarlington GC inducted into thriving Offaly Junior Golf Academy

John Craven
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Portarlington GC inducted into thriving Offaly Junior Golf Academy

Offaly Junior Golf Academy launch in Portarlington

The Offaly Junior Golf Academy has inducted Portarlington Golf Club to its ranks for 2022 as the programme continues to go from strength to strength in the name of Junior golf development.

Founded in 2018, the Academy brought together Esker Hills, Tullamore, Birr, Edenderry and Castle Barna to provide Juniors between the ages of 8 and 18 opportunities to develop and grow through Junior coaching support to Offaly Golf Clubs. Since then, the Academy has established itself as one of Ireland’s leading Junior Golf Academies, with the addition of Portarlington further proof that the programme is working, and clubs want to be part of it.

“Our vision all along was to develop our Junior golfers in Offaly and to provide additional support to our golf clubs in strengthening their Junior programmes,” says Brian Monaghan, Chairperson of the Academy.

“We were delighted to induct Portarlington Golf Club into the Academy this year. We were approached by Sinead Scully, Junior convener for Portarlington, seeking our assistance, and having been really impressed by what Portarlington were striving to achieve with their Junior programme, we were only too happy to come on board.”

In 2019, the Junior Portarlington Academy was formed with 25 children availing of three coaching session per week until the pandemic hit in March 2020.  With an appetite for the game soon rumbling again, the Academy at Portarlington saw numbers peak at 45 with Junior golf now a cornerstone of the club; constantly encouraged and promoted by Captains Kieran O’Dea and Rita Dowling.

Indeed, Junior convenor Scully is now convinced that with the help of the Offaly Junior Golf Academy, interest will only heighten in the programme in the years ahead; not least through the ongoing support of family systems that such Junior development initiatives rely upon.

“Families are an essential part of the Club,” Scully says. “The role played by family members in assisting with the development of their child through the Junior Golf Programme has been invaluable, and the Academy’s approach of family involvement and the relaxed atmosphere fits in well with our vision.

“We now have 6 Juniors signed up to the Offaly Junior Golf Academy, and I have no doubt many more will strive to be selected for Academy coaching into the future.”

In-all, 16 Juniors from Portarlington were assessed by programme coach, Eamonn O’Flanagan, who is also Pathway Manager for Golf Ireland’s High Performance coaching programme for Midlands East. The six successful Juniors who have signed up will now have access to a very impressive team and all-encompassing coaching ticket where they’ll be continuously assessed with a focus on Professional Golf Coaching, Strength and Conditioning as well as Sports Psychology.

Now into its third season, this year the Academy welcomes Peter O’Keeffe of “Golf Strong” to the team as its Strength and Conditioning coach. The Douglas man is a highly decorated Irish International golfer and current holder of the Flogas Irish Amateur Open, the Irish Close Championship and the Munster Men’s Stroke Play.

“I’m very interested in being involved in all things Junior Golf so it was a very easy decision to join the programme,” said O’Keeffe. “Brian got in touch and explained the concept and plan and I was bought in straight away.

“My main objective coming at them remotely is to educate them into how their bodies are moving, the relevance of any limitations their bodies may have in relation to their golf swing, and then I’ll link in with the coaches on those points and that should be highly beneficial. As the weeks go on, they’ll each get a warm-up for their golf and they’ll just all become much more aware of how to prepare and train.

“It’s nice to be part of a good team of people assembled there so I’m really looking forward to getting started.”

As a follow-on from the 2021 season, the programme also brought Dr Mark Campbell from the University of Limerick back into the fold. Dr Campbell himself was a highly decorated amateur golfer representing Ireland and winning major national and international events as an amateur.

Dr Campbell introduced the Academy’s Juniors to the importance of positive thinking and self-management while playing and practicing the game of golf, and will again conduct interactive online sessions helping the Juniors understand how to handle their emotions and harness a positive attitude; a set of skills that will assist the Juniors in whatever sport they play, and indeed in life itself.

The Academy was also delighted to confirm that their two professional coaches, Eamonn O’Flanagan and Corey Doherty remain with the Academy and continue to play a pivotal role in shaping the progression of the programme.

“As a coach within the academy, it is a great privilege to help advance the Junior golfers unique talents and watch their golfing experiences and skills grow,” says O’Flanagan, who is a coach within the High Performance programme for Golf Ireland working with players at area development level up to national representative players.

Doherty qualified as a PGA professional in 2016, spending time coaching overseas before he took up the position of Club Professional at Tullamore Golf Club in March 2020 with the goal of establishing himself as a top coach in the region and growing Junior golf in Offaly.

“The OJGA is a unique and pioneering project in which I am privileged to be a part of,” Doherty says.

“There is a wonderful team atmosphere in the Academy as talented Junior golfers from all over Offaly come together to learn and develop their skills while representing both their individual clubs and also their county.”

The ongoing success of the Offaly Junior Golf Academy continues to hinge on the generous support of local businesses.

“Our sponsors have been fantastic and have supported our development since the inception of this venture,” Monaghan stresses.

“We are always looking for additional support to help us grow and without these businesses we would not be able to provide such a comprehensive coaching programme.”

Congratulations to all those backing Junior golf in the Faithful County and beyond so far, the likes of Roger Guiney, Dolans Pharmacies, Austin Handy of Trade Safety, the people at the Offaly Sports Partnership and so many more, ensuring it will continue to grow and evolve.

This year the Academy commences with a Strength and Conditioning programme with Peter O’Keeffe from February 5th, followed by six spring coaching sessions which brings the Juniors to May, 2022. Dr Mark Campbell will present his lessons in June which prepares the Juniors for the summer ahead, with additional short game coaching and Academy Junior golf tournament bringing the season to a close in August.

“We are so proud of what we have achieved thus far,” concludes Monaghan.

“Our hard-working committee and dedicated sponsors, along with this wonderful team of professionals has collectively developed this Academy into one of the best in Ireland and it bodes well for the future of the game in our county.”

A testament to the Academy’s hard work can be seen first-hand in Offaly’s representation in Golf Ireland high performance panels. Offaly has no less than 13 Junior golfers, including boys and girls, on Golf Ireland development panels. Eight of these Juniors started their golf at local club level and made their way onto the Academy setup where they progressed from there onto the Golf Ireland panels.

“Who knows, we might have a Leona Maguire or Shane Lowry of our own yet!” Monaghan says, and although Brian won’t say it of himself, with his ongoing and tireless commitment to the Academy, he just might be right.

Well done Brian, and to everyone involved in the Offaly Junior Golf Academy. Roll on February 5th!

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