In his own words, his recent victory at the Irish Close was an “unbelievable week” for Alex Gleeson and when he reflects on the progress of the past year, he’ll almost certainly be using similar superlatives to sum it up.
Gleeson, from Castle Golf Club in Rathfarnham, has already plotted his way through the last few years, making significant progress year on year including multiple wins and he has also been an integral part of the last two victorious Home international teams. As the dust settles on his AIG Irish Amateur Close victory Irish Golfer caught up with the 24-year-old Dubliner.
At what age did you first pick up a club and get into golf?
I first started playing when I was about 10 or 11 with my dad around Rosses Point. I was keen on all sports from a young age so when I got the chance to play golf with my dad it was great and I loved it from day one. Dad was also a member in Milltown and I started to play a lot with him there too. Once I started to take it a little more seriously I went to John Langan at Leopardstown who has coached me ever since.
Where and when did you first break par?
It was in Milltown at 13 years of age. I shot one under and will never forget the feeling.
Do you remember your first time playing for Ireland?
The first call up I got was for Ireland under 16s. It was a match against England in Hunly Hall. I was having a good year but remember getting the call to play and it was brilliant. England had the best underage team that year and I ended up playing one of their best players in my match, Toby Trees. He beat me on the 17th but I learned so much and it was a brilliant way to start my Ireland career. Anytime you get a chance to represent your country it’s an honour and I will always remember my first match, I was so nervous.
You have won a few times this season but a big goal of yours for this year was to claim a big championship. How did it feel to come back and win the close after just missing out last season?
It felt brilliant. I had won a couple of times last year and not taking anything away from those wins but I really wanted a championship. I felt that was the next step up for me. Coming so close to winning it last year was difficult, getting to the final and losing wasn’t the best feeling but I learned a lot from it. Coming into this year I was confident I was playing well enough to win. I knew I needed to stay in the moment and not make some of the same mental errors I made last year. My semi-final against Peter Carroll was a tough match and getting through that and birding the 18th to win really got me prepared for the final. Coming down 16,17 and 18 in that match really got the adrenalin going as it was the business end of the tournament and any mistake and you are gone so it was nice to pull through. Last year I ended up going down the 19th in my semi-final and having a really quick turnaround to get going in the final didn’t give me enough time to regroup and prepare properly for the final. Having the extra bit of time to come down, regroup and focus on the final this time around was a big help to me.
You have been part of the last two Home International wins, what do you enjoy the most about the GUI team set up and why do you feel it has been so successful in recent years?
For me it’s the team atmosphere and the lads. Most of us have grown up playing other team sports and love the team environment. Golf is such an individual sport but when you are playing for the team you are playing for the lads too and your country. The whole group gells so well together and we all travel a lot together too and get on so well as a team. The national coach Neil Manchip is also a big reason for our success. The work Neil puts in with all of us is second to none. Behind the scenes with all the panels he is always there and is a brilliant guy to have a chat to about every aspect of your game.
It’s a Walker Cup year in 2017 and your performances over the past couple of seasons with Home Internationals, Boyd Quaich and Irish Close wins should have you under consideration for a place, How does this affect your goals for 2017?
Well, the Walker Cup is everybody’s goal but it’s a goal you can’t focus on. Obviously it’s a huge end goal for me and I would love to be part of the team but I look at my goals as steps to the next goal. I will be working really hard on my game over the winter trying to make it better and improve for each event. That’s what helps me perform anyway and hopefully I can keep progressing and getting better. It would be a dream to make the team next year but we still have a season to go before the team is selected so it’s a long way away.
Seeing five of your Irish teammates turn pro last year and looking at the different paths they have taken, with Paul getting his full card and a few others struggling a little to break through to the main tour. Does the uncertainty of professional golf scare you at all?
Not really, as the pro ranks are not something I will be looking at for another while. Seeing the lads all move onto the Challenge Tour and European Tour and chatting to them the one thing they all chat about is the standard out there no matter what tour they are on you really need to be on the top of your game just to make cuts. For me if I do turn pro it will be all about timing it correctly. I know how good the likes of Gavin Moynihan and Cormac Sharvin are from playing a lot with them so to see them not break onto the main tour like Paul Dunne did is an eye opener to me as to the standard you need to be at.
Are you in contact regularly with any of the senior Irish touring professionals for advice or mentoring?
I have played with a few of the lads alright but probably played most with Des Smyth. He has been very good to me with advice and helping me out in areas of my game I need to improve. I have learned a serious amount from Des, he may be on the seniors tour but when I play him he still beats me so it shows me I still have quite a way to go to get my game to a level where I can compete with the best out there.
What’s the strongest part of your game?
My strength is definitely my short game. I have gotten myself out of some very tricky situations over the years and I enjoy that aspect of the game. It means I am not putting as much pressure on my long game as I know if I miss greens and end up in trouble I would be very confident about getting up and down from anywhere. I have found the last few months my driving has been really sharp too so hitting a lot of fairways and having a good short game allows me to play more freely.
Current playing handicap? +3.7
Who was your golfing idol growing up? Tiger
Who is the best player you have played with and why?
I would have to say Jack Hume. Earlier this year he was so good
Do you have any superstitions before big games or matches?
I use the same ball marker and have it the same side up. Not really superstition but that’s what I do
Links or parkland and why? Parkland, less wind!!
Other past times outside of golf? All other sports I will watch or play anything
Lowest round shot in tournament? 65 (-7) in South Africa last year year
What’s your favourite club in the bag and why? Putter, definitely the putter
Most satisfying shot you ever hit? Probably the 20 footer I had to two put to win the close. Hitting the first putt stone dead was definitely the most satisfying