Noel Leahy, the PGA professional at Castlecomer Golf Club
Next up to the tee in our series of Kilkenny’s golf pros is Noel Leahy, the PGA professional at Castlecomer Golf Club. From growing up on the course to grilling Seve about the game, Noel Leahy speaks about his career.
Name: Noel Leahy
Club: Castlecomer Golf Club.
Previous clubs: Kilkenny and Wexford.
Years Pro: I’ve been a professional for 37 years.
How did you become a PGA professional?: Having experienced some success early in my young golfing days I gained an understanding of the role of club professional by working part-time while at school for the various club professionals at Kilkenny Golf Club. The opportunity to become a professional arose just after I completed my Leaving Certificate.
After reaching the required handicap in golf I entered a PGA traineeship under the guidance of PGA club professional Michael Kavanagh.
What made you decide to follow this route?: I had been involved at the golf club during early life and experiencing many different events such as the PGA Carroll’s Irish Match Play Championship as well as playing in competitions like the Smurfit and Pepsi Shield I decided to develop the sport into a career.
Club repairs and fitting were very popular in the early days but then I shifted my attention towards video coaching which led to computerised swing/putting technology. Later on in my career I returned to study and completed a BSc in Sports Science, as fitness is now a major part of the game.
When did you first start playing golf?: My parents Jimmy and Margaret were the Bar and Catering management team at Kilkenny Golf Club during the first part of my life. As a result, I was born into golf and grew up living on the golf course.
Favourite club in your bag: Pitching Wedge. You must make get it close from a 100 yards to have any chance of winning.
What’s the best course you’ve played on?: Ballybunion Golf Course.
Most memorable round played: The Pepsi Shield Schools Finals at Malahide Golf Club, where my brother Jimmy and I beat Christy O’Connor senior’s sons Christy and Peter (St Pauls College, Raheny) in a foursomes matchplay to go on and win the Pepsi Shield for Kilkenny CBS.
Toughest hole played: The seventh at Hazeltine Golf Club - a tight tee shot lake to the right creek to the left 200+ carry to see approach to a small elevated green surrounded by Hazeltine lake. Nerves of steel are required from tee to green.
Golf professionals are there to teach, but what’s the best advice you’ve ever received?: Reduce the spin effect in windy conditions taking extra club. This will allow smoother rhythm and a softer ball compression through impact - or else miss it like a man.
How do you relax - away from the course?: Walking by the coast or mountains.
Choose one - Tiger, Seve, Shane or Rory: It has to be Seve Ballesteros.
Having undertaken some courtesy driving at the Irish Open and American Express I had the opportunity to meet many tour professionals. I was fortunate to drive for him, so I got to chat with Seve off the course.
I saw his magical play many times on the golf course and at his golf clinics at various events. I also attended the Ryder Cup he captained in Valderrama and won, which makes him special for me.
What course is on your bucket-list to play?: Augusta National.
Who would be in your dream fourball?: Rory McIlroy, Bill Murray and Maria Verchenova.
Tell us a little-known fact about your home course: Hole 10, Cloudmount, is named after the Holmes family land in Cloudmount, Clashduff, the original location of Castlecomer Golf Club.
What golfing event are you most looking forward to in 2021?: It’s always the Augusta Masters.
Lastly, any quick tip for budding golfers out there?: “Don’t assess and it will just be a guess” – how true! Golf fitness is a big part of the modern game, having completed BSc in Sports Science I suggest to use the expertise and technology for true assessment and make sure it is specialised to you.