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08 Dec 2021

"We have worked hard at Mount Juliet for the DDF Irish Open - the place looks fantastic"

Francis Reynolds, Golf Manager, on what the pros and fans can expect at the Estate

Day In The Life Kilkenny

Francis Reynolds, Golf Manager of the Mount Juliet Golf course, checks former Republic of Ireland international Niall Quinn in for a round of golf at the Estate

Francis Reynolds has a million stories about the game of golf throughout the years at Mount Juliet Estate. You could say he is like an encyclopaedia of golf and has seen it all, having worked at Mount Juliet for 28 years!
There are more than 400 members at Mount Juliet Golf Club, all of whom Francis looks after as well as being the Honorary Secretary of the Men’s Club.
The course is closed now to all his members as Mount Juliet has been primed for the visiting pros who will play in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open this week.
Francis is also my old boss from when I worked in the Mount Juliet Golf Shop. It was just like old times when we sat down to have a chat last week ahead of the DDF Irish Open. Here is a glimpse into Francis’s world…
Francis, you are a man who lives and breathes golf. I’d say you are looking forward to the DDF Irish Open?
I’m really looking forward to it. It’s been while since the last Irish Open was here at Mount Juliet in 1995. I remember every shot of that tournament, I was watching it on the telly in the Golf Shop!
Any special memory of that Irish Open from 26 years ago when Sam Torrance won?
What everyone forgets about that tournament is that there was one very unlucky player in that Open. There was a guy called Stuart Cage, who came to the 18th a shot ahead and he doubled bogied the 18th, which led to Sam Torrance and Howard Clark into a playoff.
I was lucky to get out onto the course and watch the playoff that day. It was one of the most amazing playoffs with Howard Clark driving the ball into a tree on the 17th, and Torrance driving it past the tree.
Clark somehow hacked it out and hit a three wood onto the green. Torrance then hit a five iron onto the green, this was a Par 5 and unbelievably Howard Clark holed a 50 foot putt for a birdie. To his credit, Sam Torrance followed him in from 15 feet for an eagle!
What are you looking forward to this week?
I am looking forward to the week being over - I can’t wait until the last putt drops on Sunday evening!
On a serious note, we have worked hard and the place looks fantastic. We have fertilised the rough and it has come up about two centimetres thick, so it’s very hard to find your ball, never mind hitting it out of there for the average golfer.
I am very much looking forward to seeing how this new brand of pro golfer is going to get the ball out of the rough with such accuracy.
I can’t wait to see how golf in the pro ranks has moved on, both in the equipment and the fitness of the players.
Back in 1995, Sam Torrance’s first move after he sank the putt and won the Irish Open was to down a pint of Guinness which was presented to him by David Feherty on the course.
These guys enjoyed themselves, whereas the present day professional golfers are more athletes; they look after their bodies, they have special diets and mind gurus going around with them. They hit the ball unbelievable distances.
Back in 1995 if you hit your drive 250 yards you were a long hitter. Now you are regarded as a short hitter if you don’t hit it over 320 yards and you won’t make a living on tour if you are any shorter than that.
You have 164 players on the field this week but a lot of them won’t retain their card next year and make a living out of playing golf.
Yes, you are right, it’s a very competitive way of making a living. A lot of them struggle. I would say out of the 164 coming here, about 120 would struggle. Their playing lives, with the exception of a few, are very short.
What’s your role for the week of the DDF Irish Open?
During the event I will be mostly looking after the members in the members’ lounge, making sure they are all happy and enjoying themselves!
How has your role evolved over the years here at Mount Juliet Golf?
Yes, it has since I came here all those many years ago! I started as Golf Shop Manager and I slowly progressed to Golf Manager through Sales and Marketing.
Today, I still run the Pro-Shop here at Mount Juliet and I’m the Honorary Secretary of the Men’s Club which means I keep running tournaments and the upkeep of handicaps.
There has been an injection of enthusiasm in golf here in Kilkenny with the DDF Irish Open on our doorstep. Have you any room for new members?
Since the lockdown we have had an unbelievable uptake in golf membership in Mount Juliet. We are actually full and we have a fairly sizable waiting list of people trying to get into Mount Juliet as members.
We do allow juvenile members in still as we have to look after the next generation.
When I started we had 80 members, so we have grown into a lovely little community here now.
Back 25 years ago when we worked together, I remember you were an incredible scratch player. What are you now?
I am now three, I’m getting shots back with age!
So you have been getting a lot of practise in on your days off?
As you know, I live in Tramore and my home is on the golf course there. I have been lucky to be a member there for the past 52 years! I am also a member in Waterford Castle but I play most of my casual golf in Tramore.
So when I go home from work in the evening – from golf, I play more golf. I slip out for nine holes most evenings.
Who can you see in a potential playoff on Sunday?
Mount Juliet as a course has not been lengthened very much and is quite short in comparison to other courses on the Tour. If I was going for a little flutter on anybody I would be going for a short accurate player, somebody like Lee Westwood.
He is a long time on the Tour but he plays very straight and is playing very well at the moment. I quite fancy Lee Westwood to win the whole thing.
Let’s see if Francis is right, follow the DDF Irish Open from July 1 to July 4. Best of luck to all the players this week, especially Kilkenny’s own Mark Power.

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