McGinley chasing that winning feeling

Gaelic mad Paul McGinley won't be leading out his beloved Dublin in today's All-Ireland football final replay. The Dubs aren't playing, and anyway it's just a dream.

Reality for McGinley means winning more golf tournaments and maybe even a major championship or two. Far-fetched? Not a bit of it.

Despite winning the 1997 World Cup of golf with Padraig Harrington, three European tour events and Irish PGA, McGinley is still seen as something of an under-achiever. With McGinley, you feel, the best is yet to come. And the player himself knows it.

"I'm getting there" says McGinley. "I'm definitely on the right track and it's showing in my results. I just want to improve every day, slowly but surely." McGinley's massive bank balance is an indication of just how far he has come since he took the plunge into the paid ranks.

But the Dubliner admits that after winning the World Cup at Kiawah, only a triumph in one of the majors will be good enough to beat that winning feeling.

"It was the most incredible sensation and it will take a major to better it. But that's what I'm working towards." In 1992 the Sunningdale resident he won a respectable £44,000 to finish 97th on the money list. The following year he won £198,00 to rank 38th and then went on to clock up over £1.4 million sterling before striking a ball in anger in 2000. 

The hard-grafting 33 year-old has had the best year of his career so far, amassing over IR£500,000 in prize money on the European Tour notching six top ten finishes.

Despite not winning a tournament so far this term, McGinley has catapulted himself up the world rankings to 73rd spot through a combination of natural talent and sheer graft.

So often in the shadow of the affable Harrington, or his cigar-puffing neighbour Darren Clarke, McGinley's star is rising.

And he isn't just knocking quietly on the door of big time golf. Paul McGinley is hammering on it with both fists.

"Whatever happens between now and the end of the season this is going to be my best year ever, financially at least."

"I view my career like building a house and for the past few seasons I've been laying the foundations and building it up slowly. I'm just trying to get better and better every day because the standard out there is unbelievable. And it's getting higher all the time."

One of the great Irish amateurs of recent years, McGinley swept all before him before going on to walker Cup selection with Harrington at Portmarnock in 1991 where the Americans fielded a couple of fresh-faced youngsters by the names of Phil Mickelson and David Duval.

Mickleson had already won a professional tournament but McGinley and Liam White beat the swaggering American and his partner Bob May.

Playing of plus four at the time, McGinley turned pro and got his card at the tour school the first time of asking.

Recalls Paul: "I knew I could make it in the pro game when I started to dominate Irish amateur golf. I won the South of Ireland and the Mullingar Scratch Cup that season as well and I thought that if I an be at the top of Irish amateur golf then I must have a chance as a professional."

Although his first love was Gaelic football, the current K Club touring pro concentrated on golf after suffering a broken left knee cap in 1985 which put paid to a promising career and any hopes of a glory day in September with the Dubs. 

It turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to him and McGinley now realises how lucky he is to be able to earn his living on the golf course.

"I'm know I'm fortunate" he says. "It's a privilege to be able to play golf for the huge prize-money that's available to us these days. "For instance, the other week I finished 14th in the German Masters and won IR£31,000. That's more than most people earn in a year! "I've just been blessed with the skill and the talent to play this game and I'm very grateful", he admits.

Winning the World Cup of Golf at Kiawah Island in November 1997 with Padraig Harrington proved to be a turning point for McGinley. He took his second tour victory that season, moved to new coach Peter Cowen and to Sunningdale and started to work seriously on his fitness with the help of European Tour physiotherapist, Jonathan Shrewsbury. 

He now eats and sleeps golf. Literally.

"Golf is my life, in every way. I eat and sleep and drink golf. I watch what I eat, making sure I don't get too much fat, I work out, I do weights and cardio fitness programmes and I make sure I get enough sleep. It's the same as any athlete.

"Playing the golf I'm playing this season I would probably have won a couple of tournaments four or five years ago. I'm just a couple of shots tournament off that leading bunch. My bad round is probably a 71 now where it used to be a 73 or 74. The better I play the more confidence I get and so on."

With his work ethnic and burning dedication Paul McGinley can only succeed. That house he's building could be a mighty structure. We'll keep you posted.

Baltray, Lahinch, Newcastle .. Buenos Aires. 
Portmarnock's Noel Fox, and North of Ireland champion, Michel Hoey (Shandon Park), will represent Ireland in the Juan Carlos Tahilade Cup and 5th International Team event at the Los Lagartos Country Club, 30 miles from Buenos Aires.

East of Ireland and Irish Amateur champion Fox has had a busy schedule this season, travelling the length and breadth of the country, as well as to Scotland and the Continent.

But he can't wait to clock up yet another International appearance. Ireland is among twenty nations to receive invitations to compete in this prestigious event.

Other nations invited include Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, Norway, Finland, France, Portugal, Holland, England, Scotland, Wales, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay and hosts, Argentina.

Thurles struck gold in the Millennium Challenge finals at Newlands last weekend. The Tipperary club, represented by Michael Bulfin, Tony Cogan, Francis Butler and Evan Long racked up 106 stableford points from their best three cards to count at the Dublin track.

They won specially commissioned gold medals for their trouble after finishing three points ahead of silver medallists Muskerry, with Limerick club Shannon coming in third in the 32-team final to take the bronze.

No dopes
After the Olympic drugs scandals it was good to see that Irish amateur golf is clean as a whistle. As part of the National Anti-Doping Programme, ten players selected at random, were tested during the Interprovincial Championships at Royal in August.

The Drug Control Centre at King's College, London analysed the samples according to the methods approved by the Medical Commission of the International Olympic Committee including tests for beta blockers. No substance prohibited under the Olympic Movement Anti-Doping Code (January 2000) was detected in any of the samples.