Power off the Mark in the pro ranks

Ronan MacNamara
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Ronan MacNamara

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Hailing from the hurling mecca of Kilkenny, it’s little surprise that Mark Power is an expert with a ball and stick. A whirlwind few months has already seen him experience the glitz, the glamour, and the harsh realities of tour life, but he is keen to soak in every aspect of it.

They say when one door closes another door opens. Power had only wrapped up his amateur career on the Sunday at the Walker Cup in St Andrews before he found himself on site at the K Club that Tuesday for his first professional start at the Horizon Irish Open.

Power took to professional life like a duck to water with four impressive rounds to claim a share of 33rd place and a cheque for just under €41,000. A missed cut at the French Open at Le Golf National was followed up by a T40 at the rain sodden Alfred Dunhill Links Championship where he closed with a final round of 66 at Kingsbarns.

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“It’s been great so far, obviously got off to the ideal start in the K Club and it was great to get my first professional start in an Irish Open, the support I had that week was great, so it set me up nicely and I had a decent week at the Dunhill Links and it was great to get back to St Andrews after making so many special memories there over the last month,” explains Power who delayed turning professional in order to make his second Walker Cup appearance for Great Britain and Ireland in September.

“I felt it was really important to wait until I was ready so I could hit the ground running and feel at home right away, you don’t really want to get out there and feel like you have to find your feet for a couple of years. The setup you have through Golf Ireland, getting to play all the elite amateur events, you have to be competing at the top level before you turn professional – you’re not going to turn pro and find it.

“You really need to prove to yourself and have the confidence to know that, alright, this is where I belong.”

A tearful Power bowed out of amateur golf in style with two closing birdies at the Walker Cup to win his Sunday singles match at the Home of Golf. Amazingly, it was little over a month before he would revisit the Old Course to rekindle those fresh memories at the Dunhill.

During that week he had to wait from Friday morning until Monday to play his third and final round and when he wasn’t skipping and skidding chips through puddles with John Murphy, he found time to reflect on some special memories.

“I have never seen rain as persistent in my life at the Dunhill,” he recalled, “it was really bad, there was no let up. It was amazing how they got the final round played on the Monday. They actually opened up St. Andrews on the Sunday afternoon for practice, so it was nice to hit a few balls and see if the swing was still there. From Friday afternoon until Monday, I hadn’t played a competitive round so it was definitely weird but nice to finish off in Kingsbarns and put in a good round which has given me a boost, finished 40th and another cut made you can say.

“There were very weird emotions setting foot back in St Andrews. The last time I was there I had just finished my last amateur event in the Walker Cup, such a big event, there were so many emotions, I was happy with my performance, but we came so close to beating that US side which would have been brilliant for us. There were a lot of raw emotions that I didn’t really have time to process to be honest. The last six weeks have gone very quickly so I haven’t had time to reflect and soak in how lucky I was to have those memories.”

The Kilkenny man was very easy to spot from a distance at the Walker Cup, the bright orange soles of his Nike shoes appeared in tandem with his Scottie Scheffler-esque footwork. Now, he is donning some smart Under Armour gear and at the Horizon Irish Open he both played and looked the part. It won’t be long before the blank canvases of his shirts are dotted with logos.

On the opening day at the K Club, Power stole the show and announced himself on the professional stage with a chip in eagle at the last for an impressive 68.

“That was a great moment to chip in on the last,” he fondly remembers. “I played nicely that day but didn’t really get the putts. I was a little agitated I wasn’t three or four under, but that’s golf; you don’t always get what you deserve. The chip in was great because I had a long wait on my second shot on 18 and a 2-iron over water isn’t what you want to be waiting on. It was a lovely hit and came in a bit hot, a lovely chip back down and came out perfect.”

The 23-year-old played with eventual winner Vincent Normann on the final day and had a front row seat to learn how to close out a victory on the DP World Tour.

“I really did feel comfortable and took a lot from it. I felt so comfortable in the environment given it was an Irish Open and my first pro event. I managed it really well, didn’t get too excited or too nervous and tried to approach it like a regular event. I ended up playing with the winner, I honestly felt like I had a chance of winning going into the final round. If I’d held 200ft of putts like he did, I would have had a chance! Having a front row seat to watch a guy win was a brilliant experience.”

Power closed his maiden professional bow with a final round of 72 and finished with back-to-back birdies to make himself an extra few quid! The stakes are going to be high for him every week on Tour and the reality that every shot is money dawned on him that day when he thought to himself ‘I’m losing money here’ before his grandstand finish.

“To be fair, that’s something I’ve been told you can’t think about on the golf course. I was standing on one of the greens and realised everything has a bigger consequence, but I won’t let myself consistently think about that in future! Stakes are higher now but once I got the juices flowing, I felt comfortable and ready for professional life, I’ve been lucky to have invites to Irish Opens before, so I knew what they were about.”

Power was joined that week by Leona Maguire’s caddie Dermot Byrne, and it wasn’t the first time the experienced bagman had looped for the Kilkenny man. And like the previous outing, they’d join forces for all four rounds.

“He actually caddied for me in my first pro event in Galgorm Castle,” Power reflects, “and I made the cut there. I don’t know how I did it, birdieing three of the last four, but I can still remember the presence Dermot had, he kept me focused on the task and simplified one shot at a time so to have him back at the Irish Open was brilliant. He really is a great caddie and I get on really well with him. We have the craic walking down holes and he’s really easy to get on with. He played a role in me having a good week at the K Club.

“Having a full-time caddie will depend on how my season looks like next year, I hope to get the big one and make it on the DP World Tour and go from there. There are a bunch of caddies out there who are very experienced. I had Damien Moore who caddied for Steven Gallacher in the Ryder Cup with me at the Dunhill, and that stood to me.”

The transition from amateur to professional golf can often feel like a first day at school but Power is fortunate that his Walker Cup teammates John Gough, Alex Fitzpatrick and John Murphy are also in the infancy of their professional careers and their presence has given him some familiarity in a new environment.

“I got a good lift from seeing John and Alex start so strongly because I have competed on teams with those guys and playing with them for a number of years, so that was encouraging,” he explains.

“Being out on tour now it was nice to meet up with them and play practice rounds. There’s not a whole lot of friendliness on tour given the stakes, so it’s nice to have the guys starting out. The first couple of events I didn’t know what I was at, but I’ll learn!

“You’re trying to make friends and scope out what’s going on and find out what to do, so a few lads have given me some advice on what to do and things to avoid, so I’ll take it all in my stride.”

Power, whose parents are both former Irish Close champions, is keen to soak in as much knowledge and advice as he can about being a professional and at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, he sought the wisdom of three-time major champion Pádraig Harrington who gladly offered him a few nuggets of information – although some are top secret!

“Harrington is one person I have leaned on. I played a practice round with him in St. Andrews and I suppose I didn’t really need to be playing St Andrews after playing the golf course so much recently, but I just wanted to play with him and pick his brains and he is very willing to support the youngsters coming through. He has so much knowledge and when Harrington speaks, you listen, so he has been a great support and given me bits and pieces. Try and not get caught up in doing anything crazy, don’t try and change things to be a person you’re not.

“I feel like I didn’t have the best year results-wise in college, but felt my game was very close and I feel it’s started to come to fruition as a pro so far, so try and keep chipping away at that and I’m learning about myself and how I handle pressure and big situations and try bank it and use it when it matters most.”

You never quite know if you are going to make it as a professional. Many amateurs have enjoyed greater success than Power did but have succumbed to the pressures of Tour life and disappeared by the wayside. The Irishman has been tipped for success, signing a deal with Mount Juliet to become their touring professional but he is still walking into the unknown.

“Gary Murphy is the only other pro who has come out of Kilkenny so the last number of years there hasn’t been much golf coming through so the support I have received has been amazing. To have the support of Kilkenny and Mount Juliet means a lot and people wishing you well gives you a huge boost. It feels great that I can have that impact on people.

“I’m excited for the future ever since I was ten or before then golf is what I wanted to do I used to watch the European Tour events every day and to be out here now is surreal. It’s been a big goal to get here but there’s no point getting comfortable because there is more I want to achieve.”

Behind Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, Seamus Power and Tom McKibbin there is a dearth of talent coming through in Irish golf but in Mark Power there is hope that he can bridge that gap and make his way onto the DP World Tour and from there, make his way up the ladder, one rung at a time, one week at a time, one shot at a time.

The above feature appeared in the 2023-8 edition of Irish Golfer. To view the full edition click below

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