Ken Doherty – My Life in Golf

John Craven
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Ken Doherty in action during the Celebrity Series prior to the Irish Legends presented by McGinley Foundation at Rosapenna (Photo by Phil Inglis/Getty Images)

1. Handicap & home club?

14.2 and Elm Park Golf Club in Dublin 

2. How did you get into golf? 

I used to play a lot of Pitch and Putt up in the old Burrow, and in the Mountain View when it was still there up in Sandyford. I used to get the 44 bus up there and play for hours. I loved the Burrow, it was a much more difficult par-3 course. I even remember getting the bus all the way out to Deer Park from Ranelagh as well – that was an even greater ordeal, two buses! Used to take me about an hour just to get there so I was dedicated. I would’ve been 15, 16. I didn’t get my license until I came over to England in my 20s but that didn’t stop me playing golf. 

3. Favourite thing about golf? 

I love the time playing with friends and having a laugh out in the fresh air. There are a lot of similarities between golf and snooker but in all the years I’ve been playing snooker, I’ve never lost a ball! It’s all about being out with your mates though and having a laugh. It’s always a great release to get out on the golf course. You forget about everything else, you’re just in your own little world playing golf, it’s fantastic.  

4. Earliest memory watching golf? 

I was a big fan of the Irish Open back in the day. Watching people like Seve, Greg Norman – I loved watching Greg Norman play, I wouldn’t have too much time for him now [laughing]. Seve was definitely a favourite too though and of course Tiger Woods over the last twenty years. He was just inspiring. I actually stood behind him on the practice area at Adare Manor, just watching him hit balls and I’ll tell you what, I’ve never seen anything like it. Samuel L Jackson was in the bay next to him hitting it sideways! Tiger Woods hitting it so pure, it was majestic. Surreal. 

5. Do you still watch golf? 

I love watching the majors, having a little bet on the top-10 or who’s going to win it. I enjoy watching it.  

6. Thoughts on LIV Golf, ruination of the game or the way of the world? 

I don’t like it, don’t like it at all. I think it’s a lot of greed. I wish they’d come together and come to some sort of mutual agreement for the benefit of the whole game. But all those players who went over to play LIV Golf, they shouldn’t even be allowed to play in the majors as far as I’m concerned. You have to have some sort of governance because if you don’t have a governance, then anybody with money can come into it and disrupt. 

If they came into snooker they could do exactly the same. You have to be governed by a certain group who look after the game and the wellbeing of all the players, not just the top players. Everything about it is just wrong. I know the guys can’t help themselves because they’re getting pot-loads of money but when they’ve got so much wealth anyway, will an extra five or ten million make a big difference to their lives? I don’t think so. 

7. Strength of your game? 

My short game. Putting would be strong but anything from 80-90 yards. I’ve three wedges and they’re my best clubs in the bag – my 60, 56 and 50-degree. 

8. Weakness of your game? 

The driver would be the worst. I can’t even drive the buggy straight!  

9. Do you get lessons? 

I’ve had a few. I had a couple of lessons off David Keating in Spawell. I’ve had a couple off my pal Raymie Burns in Lisheen Springs and I had a lesson not long ago with Cormac Hennessy in Rathfarnham – lovely lad. I’m keen to get regular lessons. They’re important for any golfer who wants to improve. It’s very similar in snooker. You need to have someone looking at your cue action and making sure your technique is spot on so it’s exactly the same.  

10. Have you ever had a hole-in-one? 

Never, and not for the want of trying! 

11. Favourite golf course? 

My favourite place to play golf is around Killarney Lakes – Killeen and Mahony’s Point. Adare Manor is absolutely stunning. One of the best, if not the best course I’ve ever played. I love the two courses at the K Club as well and I think the best links course I’ve ever played is Tralee. I played it with Kieran Donaghy, the former Kerry football, and Stephen Hendry and Dennis Taylor. Myself and Kieran took the money off them as well which was nice! It’s absolutely beautiful down there but we’re so lucky in Ireland. We’ve so many to choose from, links and parkland, but especially links and Tralee’s right up there with the best of them. 

12. Bucket list golf course? 

Augusta National would be top of the list! 

13. The best golfer you’ve ever played with & why? 

I’ve played with a few! I played with Lucas Glover at Adare. In the Irish Open this year I played with Marcel Siem and Dean Burmester, they were really nice. I’ve played with Robert Karlsson, Harrington, Lowry, Darren Clarke. I haven’t played with McIlroy yet but that would be on a bucket list as well. I’ve been lucky to play with a lot of great players at Pro-ams and you really see it up close just how good they are and how far they can hit it. They seem to swing it so easy; it’s breath-taking at times.  

14. Who’s the best golfer amongst your peers in snooker? 

John Parrot plays off 1, I think. Shaun Murphy is off scratch but I don’t think he’s playing enough. Stephen Hendry is off 3, but the danger one would be Dennis Taylor. He’s playing off 9 or 10 but we call him ‘Tramlines’ because everything goes straight down the middle! He’s never off a fairway, steady as a lump of jelly, so he’d be a real bandit off his handicap. 

15. Which game is harder to master, snooker or golf? 

A lot of people talk about this but I think snooker is harder, for the very simple reason that in golf, you have your own ball. It doesn’t matter what the other guys do, you have control of what you’re doing. In snooker, you don’t have that control, you only have it when you’re at the table. When the other guy’s at the table you’ve got to sit, be patient, be concentrating, and sometimes you might feel you’re playing well but you’re not getting a chance to show it on the table. If you’re playing Ronnie O’Sullivan, he might make five centuries in five frames and maybe off just one shot of yours, so you haven’t really had a chance. In golf, you always have a chance because you always have your ball, but, in saying that, golf is more technical because there are a lot more moving parts. I still think snooker is a lot more difficult though.  

16. In golf you’re told to focus on the next shot, how many ahead are you thinking in snooker? 

You could be four or five shots ahead, at least. You’re always trying to think about angles and working the cue ball into certain positions. Sometimes it’s to get on a colour a few shots away or to knock a red off a cushion, so you’re concentrating on that. You have to be very precise but the concentration levels are very important in snooker. Even more so than golf because in golf you’ve got time between shots; you walk to your ball,  you’ve got your caddie. In snooker you don’t have time and you could be sitting in your chair for long periods of time before you even pot a ball. They’re the difficulties of our game.  

17. Can you take your mental game from snooker and bring it to golf? 

Definitely. There are a lot of similarities and affinities with both games, particularly with keeping your head still, your follow through, easy swing, concentration. Being mentally prepared and mentally strong. Like all sportspeople, snooker players, like golfers, are very competitive, and that’s what you’d take into your golf, particularly against your mates. When you’ve got a putt with fifty quid on the line on the last hole, they’re the ones you try and take easy as if it means nothing, when actually it means everything! 

18. At the highest level, which game promotes the most longevity? 

Definitely golf, without a shadow of a doubt. You can play golf and play it pretty well into your 50s. It’s better exercise, you’re out in the fresh air, you’re walking quite a lot… it’s just better for you. A lot of lads can play snooker at the top of the game into their mid to late forties but you don’t see any guys at the top of the game into their fifties. In golf you have another tour to go onto, like Harrington now almost has a second lease of life. That’s what we’re trying to achieve in snooker. For the likes of Jimmy White and Stephen Hendry who can still play, we’re trying to promote a seniors tour. The World Championship is the only one we have at the minute, televised on the BBC and at the Crucible which is great. But yeah, for any of the snooker players who love golf, they’d probably love to be golfers! Better paid and a longer life span, what’s not to like? 

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