Maynooth’s Griffin gamble paying off as he rubs shoulders with the world’s best

Ronan MacNamara

Ryan Griffin - Getty Images

Sport is full of sliding doors moments and for Rosapenna’s Ryan Griffin his came during the second round of the 2019 West of Ireland Championship where he recovered from an opening 80 with a 66 and he hasn’t looked back since.

He didn’t know the significance of that round at the time but it was enough to convince Maynooth University Paddy Harrington Scholarship Manager Barry Fennelly to bring him into the programme and complete a relatively quick journey for the 22-year-old who was playing off a handicap of five four years ago.

Griffin has been improving every year since joining the programme and has won three times in the last twelve months, two Student Tour Series events (and the 2022 Order of Merit) and the 2022 Irish Intervarsities Championship.


“Barry took a chance on me when I was around 19 before COVID. I shot five-under in the second round of the West of Ireland after a nine-over first round and it was that round of golf that got me into golf properly,” says the psychology student.

“To get me to this point that was the most important round of golf in my life and I didn’t even know it at the time. It was only through that Baz took a chance on me to put me into the scholarship programme and here I am now.

“All the Americans, their college system all of them are there for the golf, not because they like the degree they all do communications degrees that just get them by because they are simple to do. I study psychology so I find it very interesting and I really enjoy it, same with everyone on the Maynooth team. That aspect is great and to be fair, you have the best of facilities, we have a membership in Carton House and Portmarnock too.”

Last month Griffin rubbed shoulders with the world’s best amateurs at the Arnold Palmer Cup in Laurel Valley and took down two World Number Five players in Austin Greaser and Rachel Kuehn before taking World Number One ranked amateur Gordon Sargent to the 17th green twice.

His own amateur ranking of 1031 seems beneath his ability, particularly given what he has been able to produce on the big stage. A bubbly character while never being overly confident in his own golf game, rubbing shoulders with the world’s elite has made him realise the gap to the top isn’t as wide as he thought.

“The highlight of the week was getting a point in the first match against Austin Greaser and Rachel Kuehn,” explains Griffin who was joined on the International side with Max Kennedy and Lauren Walsh. “When the pairings were out I was asking the guys about Austin and they were saying how good he was. But you just go and play your golf and they aren’t actually as good as you think they are going to be which was a real eye opener. I played the world number one Gordon Sargent twice and took him to seventeen twice so you are kind of looking at these guys and you realise the margins aren’t that big. They are really good but it’s not an unreachable level.

“Their misses are still really good. When they do miss the ball it’s never into a water hazard they might hit a bunker but they still have a shot to the green. It’s very impressive and their short game and putting is phenomenal. Their putting from inside eight feet you might as well have given it to them. Sargent holed the odd long one on the back nine which was a kick in the stones as well! I was right there and knew I could win but he always just produced something to get the edge so it was you under pressure instead of him. Very marginal but not unreachable and that gave me great confidence coming home because you know if you put in the hard work and effort you can get to that level.

“When I saw the pairing with Gordon I had mixed emotions after winning a point the first day and I was thinking I could win a couple more and make a statement not being from college in the States. I was hoping for a wee handy one! But to get Gordon was mixed I was like ‘ok right’ but then again it’s a fantastic opportunity to test yourself against the best and see where you’re at compared to them.

“On the plane home I was jotting down a few things and the differences between our own games and what I could do to try get to that level and that’s the main takeaway. It was a real confidence boost all round,” he adds as he prepares for a busy run of Irish Championships.

The Arnold Palmer Cup is about much more than what happens on the fairways. Griffin describes himself as someone who would chat to a stone and his thick Donegal accent wasn’t going to stop him from mingling with players from America, South Africa and Argentina amongst others.

“It was absolutely unbelievable. It was one of the best weeks of my life. The Americans go above and beyond to make sure you have a fantastic time out there and this was no different. We were looked after like royalty from start to finish. Everything about it was phenomenal I have to say.

“I didn’t know what to expect because this was the best players in the world playing in this tournament. I didn’t know how they would be. Our accommodation had a communal lounge area and we were staying with the Americans so we mingled with them. Anytime we were at food we had to sit beside someone we didn’t know so you were encouraged to mingle with people.

“That’s the kind of person I am, I loved it I would chat to a stone! It was great to meet everyone and talk to them about how they got into golf, their background and their plans then you explain to them your own story. The biggest challenge I had was slowing down my words for people to understand me. It was funny the international ones had the biggest problem, the Americans were alright they could understand but I got a bit of slagging in the changing room.

“I said hello to Matteo from Argentina and he was looking at me like I had two heads, he hadn’t a clue what I was saying!”

The Ballybofey & Stranorlar’s belief that he could mingle with the best came at last year’s Amateur Championship in Royal Lytham when he made the cut on his debut – outscoring his two top-100 ranked partners in the process. Now one of the top performers for Maynooth University on the R&A Student Tour having won the Order of Merit this year, his big goal for 2023-24 is to sit top of the class again and play his way onto the Palmer Cup side for Lahinch.

“I’ll be doing my utmost best to win the Order of Merit again to get to Lahinch because it will be unbelievable. The people you get to know is phenomenal. A lot of the Americans won’t have a clue what is going on in Lahinch, they won’t have a notion how to play it so that should be a huge advantage for us.

“I came so close last year losing out in the final event so I knew if I put my foot down I would be there or there about. It was points and a half in St Andrews and I knew the conditions weren’t going to be favourable so you could grind your way to it. The win in Spain definitely helped and to win the Order of Merit then was fantastic and it will definitely be a goal of mine next year as well.”



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