By Kieran Murphy
RAIN, snow, frost and high winds in December and January may be keeping golfers away from the greens and fairways, but at Carlow golf club the newly appointed professional is not letting the unpleasant conditions get in his way as he puts a personal stamp on his new job.
One of the first things Damien McGrane did was to appoint former Curtis Cup player Tara Delaney as his new assistant pro, while the new man has already started to put plans in place to build up a vibrant retail trade which, he hopes, will attract members and visitors to a newly-laid-out pro shop.
He has also committed himself to the development of Carlow Golf Club and is putting his own playing career on hold.
He will take up a full range of duties on Monday 5 February. Currently he is living in Dublin but intends moving to Carlow. His enthusiasm is infectious as he talks about tackling the challenges that lie ahead.
“I have done it all before in Wexford, which will stand to me,” he told **The Nationalist** last week. “I have done a bit of ground work in the last six weeks and I’m down here organising how it will be when I start.
“I would like to be as well prepared as I can so I can deliver to the membership and the locality as soon as possible,” said the former European Tour winner.
McGrane has made an interesting appointment and says he is delighted to be joined by Tara Delaney, who had been operating out of The Heritage with club pro Eddie Doyle, himself a Graiguecullen man.
“Lucky for me she is an outstanding player. Lucky for Carlow Golf Club she is an outstanding golfer with an excellent track record and a terrific career in the game.
“She needs to learn the retail business and that is why she has agreed to join me to help provide the full service to the golf club. I need back-up and need somebody in my corner. She has agreed to do it and it is a very positive situation at the moment.”
The new Carlow golf pro identified many areas where he would like to help bring improvements.
“I think the golf club has taken the finger off promoting themselves and I know my brand and what I do, it will naturally promote the golf club and I think that is why I was given the job,” said McGrane.
It is not by accident he continually refers to the club by its full name.
“I believe we need to promote Carlow Golf Club and elevate it. I know all my colleagues (fellow tour players) realise Carlow Golf Club is one of the great inland courses in Ireland. But I think Carlow Golf Club has got itself surrounded by a mist over the last couple of years and people don’t talk about Carlow Golf Club. When I start as a professional in Carlow I will promote Carlow Golf Club in my circle very heavily.
“As a result, it will give Carlow Golf Club new enthusiasm to reinvest in itself. To upgrade the practice area, to improve the practice facilities, improve the clubhouse facilities and make it a better experience for the membership.”
In the week before he moves into the pro shop, he has asked builders to come in and make some changes.
“I am tying up loose ends and getting the current shop reshaped and remodelled,” McGrane explained.
McGrane says the course has many top-class and challenging holes.
“The first hole is a great hole in Carlow, but it is one of the most difficult holes,” he notes, while he says two holes on the back nine stand out for him.
“For me it is a toss-up between 14, with the dog-leg and the green with the fall-offs and the 16th, which is a very powerful hole. It is exciting. It has great contrast. It is a tight driving hole and has a very long second shot.”
The fair-weather golfers may be staying away for the moment. Not McGrane. He has a focus and plans to bring everyone with him. He pledges to put his own game on the back foot.
“I will work day and night in Carlow Golf Club, as it is a new business. Once things settle down in the retail space I will go back and play golf. I might play half or one-third of what I played last year.”
So despite the gloomy weather, exciting times lie ahead for Carlow Golf Club and Damien McGrane.