O Leary is always remembered as the last home player to win the
19 years have passed since that glorious afternoon at Portmarnock
and O Leary is keen to see some new Irish golfing lore created
c in the Ryder Cup in 2005.
s going to be tremendous,” he told me this week. =Ireland
is such a terrific venue for golf and Irish people are so enthusiastic
that I have no doubt that It's going to be a very memorable event.
No doubt at all.”
of the original European Tour diehards, O Leary is now a member
of ther Board of Directors of the money-spinning golf circus.
It's partly thanks the Dubliner that the K Club is getting a
chance to stage the greatest team event in golf at the luxurious
Liffeyside venue in four years time.
a member of the Ryder Cup board, O Leary supported Ireland s
bid to stage what is arguably the greatest show in professional
although he played in the event once himself, in 1975, this will
very much be O Leary s Ryder Cup.
giving his life to golf as a player and administrator, injury
has forced O Leary to accept that he is now entering the twilight
days of his career as a player.
he still takes great pleasure form watching the incredible growth
of the game in his native country.
the AIB Irish Seniors Open on TV the other day was great to see.
It's a great tournament and the atmosphere there at Powerscourt
was a wonderful advertisement for Ireland as a golfing venue,”
he said. =It's a great new facility and a tournament with a great
sponsor in AIB, who will be involved in the Ryder Cup at the
think It'said a lot about the Irish way of enjoying golf. And
that s important because those pictures were seen all over the
to move to England over 25 years ago as he chased the big money
tournaments on tour, O Leary was one of the most flamboyant and
colourful players of the seventies and eighties.
the bright red trousers and outrageously patterned sweaters are
probably deep in mothballs now as the 51 year-old Dubliner battles
to come back from crippling back and hip problems.
s been five years since the famous O Leary mullet hairstyle graced
the fairways. And if he is to resurrect his career c this time
on the European Seniors Tour c he will have to undergo surgery
for the fourth time later this year.
the Dubliner: =I ve had three operations on my back and my hip
but I haven t been able to play any golf for over five years.”
ll wait until after the Ryder Cup to have another operation and
put things right but this probably be my last chance at playing
competitive golf again.
I can get myself right then I ll definitely try and play on the
European Seniors Tour next season but we ll just have to wait
and see how things go in the autumn.”
the acheivements of generations of Irish players from the Christy
O Connor and Eamonn Darcy to Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington
and Paul McGinley, O Leary s Irish Open win of 1982 still holds
its magic for the Irish golfing public.
a professional at the Buckinghamshire, O Leary admits that he
is amazed that he still holds such a special place in the history
of the Irish Open.
the 6 1" former champion: =Quite frankly, with all the success
our players have had in recent years, I'm amazed they haven't
pushed me into the background.
will always be remembered as an Irish Open winner, which is very
gratifying," he said. "But I have no great wish to
remain the last Irishman to do so. That's something which should
have passed into other hands a long time ago.
is no shortge of quality players when you see the likes of Darren
Clarke, Paul McGinley and Padraig Harrington, so I think It's
only a matter of time before one of them wins an Irish Open.
McGinley at the moment is playing the most fantastic golf.”
getting hooked on the game as a 12 year-old on a family holiday
in Butlins, big John spent all his summers on the golf course,
getting down to scratch within four years.
the age of 20 he had turned pro and spent six months in America
before joining the European Tour in 1971.
he never won consistently enough to breakthrough into the big
time, O Leary was one of the top Irish performers in continental
golf for many years.
best season from a ranking point of view came in 1976 when he
won he Greater Manchester Open, eventually finishing 16th
in the Money List behind No 1 Seve Ballesteros.
1978 he tied with the mercurial Spaniard for second behind Ken
Brown at Portmarnock in 1978, before finally made his big breakthrough
in 1982 by winning with the Carroll s Irish Open to huge local
acclaim at Portmarnock.
the soft-spoken family man is still incredibly modest about that
never really think about it, only when people like yourself remind
me of it,” he said. =It really was wonderful but it was
such a long time ago that I can t really believe that people
still remember it.”
it not been for injury O Leary might well have challenged Messers
Lyle, Faldo, Langer and Ballesteros for an elite place in the
annals of European golf.
for his swashbuckling win at Portmarnock and his help in bringing
the Ryder Cup to the K Club O Leary will always be regarded as
Ireland s champion.
Spit and brass
said a caddie s life was easy.
carrying the bag for Jamican Delroy Cambridge in the Pro-Am at
last week s Irish Seniors Open at Powerscourt, a local bag-carrier
used spit and elbow grease to clean the golf balls instead of
a damp towel.
big-hitting Jamican was not amused and sacked the offender on
was to follow. The unhappy local may have missed out on a handsome
tip as Cambridge went on to finish joint fifth in the tournament
and pick up a fat cheque for £10,000.
Cullen won t be swapping his putter for a two-iron.
the 6 5” giant from Baldoyle might have been tempted to
go for a radical change after using the long iron on the greens
during last week s Irish Amateur Open at Royal Dublin.
in 1999, Cullen abandoned his putter for ‘misbehaviour
during in his second round and switched to his two-iron instead.
result? He holed a 30 footer for eagle two on the 265-yard 16th
but still missd the cut by three shots.
bucks will be on offer at this year s Murphy s Irish Open at
a prize fund of £1,260,000 c up £80,000 on last year
c the winner will pick up a cool £200,000 for four days
s crunch time for Walker Cup hopeful Noel Fox.
believe that only two Irishmen will be in the side to play the
Americans in Georgia in August.
with Graeme McDowell a virtual certainty,
it looks like a straightforward fight between Fox and
Michael Hoey for the other place in the side.
with Hoey reaching the final of the West and losing only in a
play-off for the Irish Amateur Open last weekend, the Portmarnock
may have to win a big one to get back into contention.
chance could come in the Brabazon Trophy at Birkdale this weekend
or the St Andrew s Links Trophy at the Home of Golf from May
Brian Keogh 2000