Ennis golfer Aideen Walsh will compete at this year’s KPMG Women’s Irish Open in Dromoland that tees off this Thursday morning.
The amateur golfer will come up against some of the elite players in the women’s game with Leona Maguire set to compete while Major champion Catriona Matthew, who won the Irish Open when it was last held in 2012, is part of a stacked field.
Walsh states this is not a completely new experience for herself as she aims to produce her best golf next week with Sky Sports set to broadcast the event. The Irish international amateur is no stranger to competing alongside the stars of women’s golf having twice played her way into the ISPS Handa World Invitational.
“I’ve been lucky enough to play in a pro event up in the North about two years ago so this will be at a similar level. It’s at home of course so maybe it makes it a little bit bigger because it’s in a course that I remember and in my home county. I’m glad that I have that experience already with the ISPS Handa I played so I can use what I’ve learned from that going in to the Irish Open.”
“I’ll just approach the week the exact same that I would any other. I won’t treat it any different. I’ve been in the environment and been surrounded by Leona Maguire, Stephanie Meadows.
“Obviously, it’s pretty cool when you are on the driving range and Leona Maguire is beside you but again I’ll just focus on what I have to do because otherwise I’ll end up taking my eyes off the prize.”
Sports Direct has teamed up with Walsh, as the brand is a partner of the 2022 KPMG Women’s Irish Open.
The ‘Get A Grip’ campaign calls on the Irish public to join Sports Direct on the journey to the KPMG Women’s Irish Open and gain a greater understanding of golf, and particularly women’s golf, in the lead up to and during the tournament. As part of the campaign, Sports Direct will sponsor a Pro Am team led by Walsh ahead of the tournament.
Walsh believes the support of SportsDirect is important in growing the women’s game: It’s massive. Having Leona announced created a new level of awareness for the Irish Open and now having SportsDirect announce the Get a Grip campaign, hopefully we can push it and get people out there and make them aware the Irish Open is on and tickets are available. Bring your family as it’s going to be a great week.”
The primary school teacher should not be lacking in confidence when she strides up to the first tee next Thursday. Walsh helped Lahinch win the AIG Women’s Senior Cup for the third time in the past four hostings of the event.
She states that in an individual sport such as golf, when there is no hiding place after a bad round, having a team event is a refreshing change as she feels that Lahinch are in a position to target more success in this competition after losing last year’s final to Elm Park Golf Club.
“It’s always special to play club golf and to represent Lahinch. There is something different about playing club golf. Just to see all the members come out and support and you know it really means something when you play for your club.”
“Together we got our third All Ireland in the last four times the competition has been held and it means so much because we have put in so much work in the last seven, eight years. Now we are at the top of our game, we’ve won three All Irelands and we are just going to keep going and I see no reason why we can’t win another one.”
The daughter of Martin and Marianne Walsh became engrossed in the sport as a child with her interest stemming after her father brought herself and her brother Cormac to Woodstock Golf Club.
“My dad brought my brother Cormac up to Woodstock and that’s how it started. He was going starting but I was sports mad so once I got word of a new sport I wanted to try it out too. Cormac actually plays a bit. He’s out in America. He’s a greenkeeper in South Carolina (Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head).”
“He’s a two or a three handicap so he’s pretty good. My other two brothers don’t play. It’s supposed to be a beautiful places so I’m going to visit in October to see is he telling me the truth.”
At the moment, Walsh is working as a substitute teacher while she is studying online for a Masters in Leadership and Inclusion in education at UCD. Walsh admits life can be hectic but feels that not being solely focused on golf helps her game.
“As of now I’ve no intentions of turning professional. I am pretty happy balancing. You never know what might happen in the next few years. I’m not going to rule it out completely. It’s nice to have the best of both worlds now and to be able to go in to school.
“Some people don’t know about the golf which is great and I need that break because otherwise it’s just really consuming. To have an avenue outside of golf helps my golf in a way.”
So, what is the goal for Walsh as she prepares to compete in this prestigious event?
“I wouldn’t be the biggest person for an outcome goal. I know a realistic outcome goal would be to make the cut. I’d probably focus more on process goals which is just me seeing can I hit 13 greens, basically the exact same kind of things I would do for an amateur event.”
“I would focus more so on the strategies at amateur tournaments that would help me reach those goals. I’m going to try and do the exact same things I would do for an amateur event as I think that would add extra pressure and extra expectations. I’m just going to treat it like any other week.”
Despite being a member of Lahinch, the Masters student is also a lifetime member with Woodstock. She has been a member of Dromoland since she was a child with this effectively a home town tournament for the talented golfer. She is looking forward to experiencing the course at it’s best with the revamped 18th hole proving popular.
“The Director of Golf Eamonn O’Donnell, the Managing Director, Mr Mark Nolan, and the whole team have put in huge work. They have invested €2 million and made a good few changes.
“Even since the start of the year they have been done lots of work and it’s really looking good at the moment. I’m excited to see how it will look at the tournament. I’m one of the lucky ones who will get to play it and they will have all the new tee boxes opened.”
“The 18th is the biggest change. I didn’t like it before but now I love. I think it could be one of my favourite holes. They have built a new fairway and brought in the water, you are hitting over the water in to the castle and that’s your finishing hole.
“I’m hoping we will have a tight Sunday and you never know what can happen there with water on the 18th.”