Peter O’Keeffe talks longevity in golf

Peter O'Keeffe says anyone can increase their flexibility, get fitter and healthier. (Image: Golf Ireland / Thos Caffrey - Golffile)

The European Senior Men’s and Ladies’ Championships tee off tomorrow morning. It is a huge week for the golf course that overlooks Cork City, with the world’s elite travelling to take part and the almost 150 golfers in attendance will have full use of Peter O’Keeffe’s Golf Strong facilities at Douglas.

“John McHenry is a very modest individual but he needs to take a lot of credit for bringing new ideas to the golf club,” said O’Keeffe.

“In fairness, committees and people have gone with him on it but Douglas is the complete package. It’s very social, the restaurant and bar there is fantastic, the food is great. The practice facilities are brilliant.


“I see it in the classes (that O’Keeffe runs), there are new members coming in all the time. They are seeing, right can I join a class and I’ll have them try a class out. So they are getting that experience of everything really.

“It’s a really nice club to be part of. It’s progressive and other clubs are looking in. I’m lucky with my business side of things. Hermitage then have done the same and we have put a facility in there.  Other clubs are following suit. It’s very progressive, it’s very positive and it’s definitely heading in the right direction.”

Douglas Golf Club is ready to host the European Senior Men’s and Ladies’ Championships.

O’Keeffe is a former professional golfer who now operates on the Irish amateur circuit and he is also part of the Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup squad set to take on USA at St Andrews later this year.

The 41-year-old is a Cork native and he joined Douglas Golf Club in 1997. He grew up next to Frankfield Driving Range and his love affair with the game began when he was just ten.

“I went up for a lesson with my dad. The first lesson was with Brendan McDaid years ago and then Dave Whyte took over as club pro. Michael Ryan was pro up there as well,” said O’Keeffe.

“I started getting to know the lads. I got a job on the driving range, worked in the pro shop. You would caddy for the lads on the Irish region and I loved it. I loved the club at the time and transferred over to Douglas in 1997 and progressed into the Golfing Union of Ireland, as it was at the time.

“I played on the boys’ panel, the teams and things like that. The Irish youths’ teams as they were back then, the U21s. And then I got a scholarship to the University of South Eastern Louisiana and did a degree there in Exercise Science.

“I didn’t really have a plan around that field I just went for the golf side of it. Came back in summer, narrowly missed out on the Irish team for home internationals.

“I said I would go to European Tour School just to see what it would be like. Got all the way to the final stages, got me a Challenge Tour card. I played Challenge Tour then for six seasons up to 2013.”

O’Keeffe found it difficult to maintain his new profession and with business ideas floating around in his head he chose to go back playing as an amateur.

And having come from state of the art facilities in USA and the professional ranks all around Europe, he was interested to put his studies to work – O’Keeffe Golf Performance was launched as a result.

“I grew that into Golf Strong. I started doing fitness classes in golf clubs in the Cork area; Monkstown, Muskerry, Cork Golf Club and Douglas, my own club, were great supporters.

“One class grew into two and three a night. I just saw that golfers loved coming to their golf club, of all ages. Just to improve their fitness and their movement for golf etc. And I suppose that’s kind of progressed it onto where it is now.”

Golf Strong is growing steadily, they launched a new app earlier this year and that has caught on with people all over the world downloading the latest version.

With facilities in Douglas and Hermitage, O’Keeffe creates bespoke programmes for his clients no matter what their level of ability is.

And with almost a decade of experience in the industry, he wants to share his knowledge and help anyone looking to extend their sporting career.

“The first thing that everyone needs to hear is it’s never too late, particularly around movement and mobility,” said O’Keeffe.

“And I have seen my own body change as I have gotten older. I am far more mobile at 41 than I was when I was a professional golfer. That’s just by trial and error, learning what works.

“It’s about assessing peoples’ bodies, understanding how people move. I have seen people in their 60s and 70s get way better in how they move. And then you are dealing with injury prevention and longevity as a bonus.

“I worked with a 77-year-old guy last summer. He was on the brink of giving the game up. He had poor posture, had lost his range of motion, he had lost his strength. And we just started from scratch and we built it and built it and built it. And now he’s flying, he’s back playing golf, confidence is up.”

Through consistent work on his movement and flexibility O’Keeffe has been able to get his clubhead speed up to 137 miles per hour recently.

And the clear message he wants all golfers to know is they can play the game, and get better no matter their age or ability.

“A lot of younger people take it for granted that they are moving well,” said O’Keeffe.

“I do an awful lot of work with younger players and sometimes a good mobility programme along with strength work can transform someone’s movement or their form in the golf swing.

“Particularly then with older people, some people have an attitude, I don’t know is it an Irish thing, I’m X age, I can’t improve. I’ve seen it, I’ve seen people come in.

“I had a guy recently, his brother started training with us over the winter. The other brother came into the gym, a guy who had never set foot in a gym, he said I’ve played with my brother and he is ten yards longer than me, that has never happened, sign me up.

“We do an assessment then and we find, well you are not moving well into your downswing or you are very tight on your backswing or whatever the case may be. And then just design a programme for them either with me or a member of my team or they come in themselves and just work on it.

“Just having them aware that they can improve. That’s the big message for me, everyone can make improvements.”

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