Kate Dwyer: Setting standards and making history in Maynooth University

Ronan MacNamara
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Kate Dwyer (Rossmore) - Image courtesy of Maynooth University

Whether it’s in the courts or on the golf course, Kate Dwyer certainly excels at both. Now in her fourth year of Law in Maynooth University, the Monaghan ace found the winning touch on the golf course in 2022.

Dwyer made history in October when she became the first female winner of the Irish Intervarsity Golf Championship, holding off fellow Maynooth students Ryan Griffin and Aaron Marshall in Rosslare.

Although the magnitude of her achievement didn’t hit home straight away, Dwyer hopes more young girls will follow suit.

“It didn’t strike me much at the time. The night we finished Intervarsities we flew to France so it was a quick turnaround,” said the Rossmore woman.

“It was absolutely class. There were four girls in the field so I wasn’t really expecting that heading down. It was absolutely brilliant being in the mix on the final day with the lads, definitely hold a few bragging rights! I’ll hold onto them for the next few months.

“It’s a great standard with the lads, a few from Maynooth went down as well so I was delighted to win.

“When I won it, being the first woman to win the Intervarsities didn’t come to my mind at all, it was brought to my attention by the lady members back in Rosslare saying it was brilliant and that I done it for the girls.

“It didn’t really hit me until later that evening when all the congratulatory texts came in. When you win it, you’re just winning a golf tournament, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s males or females, it makes it all that sweeter I suppose.

“Hopefully we can get a few more girls in the future because the team here has so much to offer and it’s a great opportunity to play golf. We’ve had some great names in the past so hopefully we can keep that going,” added Dwyer who plays off a handicap of plus three.

A relatively late starter to the game of golf, Dwyer had a passion for all sports and activities as a child. Playing Gaelic football for her local club Monaghan Harps, swimming, Irish dancing, horse riding and even basketball. 

An all-rounder, but golf came later in her life; Dwyer eventually taking up the game at 14 in Rossmore Golf Club where her father was the junior convenor. It has become her number one sport since.

“I was late starting to the game in comparison to other girls and boys at the minute. I think I was around 14 when I got my handicap. My dad was the junior convenor in my home club in Monaghan, Rossmore. My brother had played a bit before me and both of them loved it.

“We used to play golf on holidays and I couldn’t really understand why they were walking around after this white ball but soon enough I got the obsession for it I suppose and it went from there.

“I did a lot of Irish dancing and Gaelic football, swimming and horse-riding and a bit of basketball. Golf came around then and of course it takes a lot of time, a lot of hours of practice so when I was sixteen I had to put the foot down and decide what I wanted to do so with school and golf, you can’t devote the hours to everything.

“Monaghan is a big gaelic spot. It was one of my favourites, the team environment is fantastic. I played since I was eight and loved it with all the girls. I went back for two of the summers when I was sixteen or seventeen, broke a couple of fingers so that put an end to it pretty quickly.”

After carefully considering her options both at home and in the United States, Dwyer decided to attend Maynooth University on the Paddy Harrington Golf Scholarship in 2019 and despite having her early years curtailed by COVID, she has loved the experience.

“This is my fourth year, it was cut a bit short with COVID but it’s brilliant. Barry Fennelly does a fantastic job, everything you would get in the States you get here. We have Robbie Cannon for strength and conditioning, our nutritionist Kate McDaid and then our three coaches Donal Scott, Johnny Foster and Noel Fox who we see weekly.

“It’s been a brilliant experience and the scholarship has brought on my golf a lot; we have class facilities so it’s been great. We have playing rights in Carton House which is brilliant, we have full access to the facilities. They have everything to offer here, the only thing we can’t control is the weather but we have indoor bays and umbrellas, so we get by!

“When I was looking at the States, I would have been a bit more academic in school so I didn’t want to sacrifice my academics. I wanted to get a good degree without sacrificing my golf.”

The 22-year-old is a regular competitor in the R&A Student Tour Series which launched during her first year in Maynooth in 2019. The circuit has afforded Dwyer the opportunity to test herself against players from around Europe on some of the best golf courses.

“The scholarship offers a lot more than what people realise, there’s basically something every day,” she says.

“There’s the R&A Tour Series which came in when I was in first year, we go to Scotland, Portugal and France all within six or seven months. You don’t really get an off season but I like it that way, you’re ready to go when the season starts in April and May.

“There’s a lot of new players coming in. Stirling in Scotland are really good, the Swedish teams have some brilliant players so the series is getting bigger and attracting more players. There’s tough competition.

“It’s brilliant to test yourself against these players and the courses are absolutely class. I’ve never hated and loved golf so much than when we played Troia in Portugal. Le Golf National and St Andrews are incredible experiences.”

From the outside looking in, studying a degree in law doesn’t seem like the best recipe for success on the golf course but Dwyer has managed to find the perfect balance over the last four years with Barry Fennelly and co proving a massive help.

“When I came to Maynooth, I was interested in business and english, they were my subjects in school that I would have excelled at. So, I looked at what the best courses I could do here would be and what I could do to get a masters.

“The Law programme is excellent in Maynooth. The hours are fairly low, people don’t realise that there’s a lot of outside work and reading which suits the golf so it’s a really good course.

“Once you get your grades you can do your masters anywhere.

“In Maynooth, as opposed to the States, your academics do come first. If you have a lecture or an exam you have to go to them. Barry is very good, he balances our golf with our academics very well so if we have something on, we’ll get our coaching pushed to a different time so it’s based around how your lectures fall so the scholarship caters to that well.

“When I pick my subjects for the semester, I try to have as much continuous assessment as possible so there’s less stress over exam time in the summer or in January for our warm weather training. 

“Good planning is key; if you let your coaches know where you will be at certain times, you’ll be OK,” she laughed.

Leona Maguire is one of Dwyer’s idols. In fact, they played together in an Irish Scratch Series event 18 months ago and her main goal for 2023 is to rub shoulders with the LPGA Tour winner at the KPMG Women’s Irish Open in Dromoland Castle.

“She was just over the road from me in Cavan,” Dwyer says. “Growing up, her and Lisa were going off to the States. I played with Leona in the Irish Scratch Series a year and a half ago, she’s amazing, such a good attitude and her golf game is seriously impressive. You can’t not look up to her, she has such a good work ethic.

“It’s a goal of mine next year to get a spot for the Women’s Irish Open. I was talking to the girls who played in it in September and they said it was such a great experience to surround themselves with all the LET players and it’s going to be a huge goal of mine to play in it next year,” explained Dwyer who hasn’t made her mind up yet over a career in the courtroom or on the fairways.

“I’ve not quite figured it out yet. At the minute I just want to be the best golfer I can be so I’m doing all in my power to do that. I just want to get better day by day and see where I can get to this year and next year.”

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