WC Fields famously advised against performing with children or animals. He could easily have added: “And don’t play golf with ten-year-old girls.”
Twins Lisa and Leona Maguire from Ballyconnell in Co Cavan played golf at the K Club’s magnificent Smurfit Course earlier this week and gave your curious 10-handicap correspondent a lesson in straight-hitting and short game wizardry that would bring tears to your eyes.
And while their bedroom at home is more of a shrine to Tiger Woods than Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lisa and Leona have not been playing the game since they were infants.
They first touched a golf club 12 month ago, played their first competition off 36 in Castle Hume on St Patrick’s Day this year and taken to the game like ducks to water with their handicaps plummeting by a combined 44 shots in the space of just five months.
Now playing of 13, Lisa will represent Northern Ireland in the British finals of the Young Masters Golf series at Celtic Manor in October while 15 handicapper Leona will also be there as the leading qualifier from the Republic.
Their father, Declan, who also doubles as their primary school headmaster, entered them at different venues so as to avoid a repeat of the Wee Wonders Championship qualifying result where Leona beat Lisa into second place at Rosses Point and earned a place in the British and Irish under ten finals which will be played at St Andrews next month.
These girls are going places in the world of golf and K Club professional Peter O’Hagan had no hesitation in describing their skills as “simply stunning” when he joined us for nine holes at the water-strewn Arnold Palmer designed K Club course.
“They have great potential,” says Peter. “But what impressed me most about them was that they have a great attitude on the golf course. They simply go out to enjoy themselves, which is the most important thing at that age.
“Kids will always swing the club very naturally but Lisa and Leona also have great hand eye co-ordination and nice short games. My advice would be to let them simply go out and have fun and enjoy the game.
“But I also told them to spend as much time on the putting and chipping green as they do hitting balls on the range. They shouldn’t worry about distance, because distance will come. The short game - pitching, chipping and putting - will always make up for the odd poor tee shot.”
While they are not identical twins, distinguishing between the two ponytailed talents was not made any easier by their matching red and white outfits and identical sets of Ping Moxie clubs - two woods, four irons and a putter.
Coached by Sean Donnelly at Castle Hume, they have also had plenty of help from Tristan Mullally at Slieve Russell Golf Club, just yards from their home and hope to follow in their footsteps and become professional golfers.
They eat, sleep and dream the game and while the Smurfit Course at the K Club measures 5,215 yards off the ladies tees, it caused few problems for the Maguire girls as they fired drivers of close to 200 yards, followed by three wood approaches of 150 yards to many of the difficult par fours on the front nine.
Lisa holed out from off the green for a gross birdie at the tricky fifth hole while Leona’s chipping and putting was simply superb as she notched several gross pars to carry me to victory over the pro and sister Lisa in a betterball nine hole match.
We had all played off the ladies tees on the front nine but as Peter left us to our own devices on the homeward half, I foolishly agreed to give the girls a shot a hole (except on the pars threes) in a betterball matchplay contest off the reds.
It was all over by the 15th - 5 and 3 - and their combined score of three over gross on the back side was good enough to give them wins on eight of the nine holes.
To add insult to injury, I lost all three holes to gross pars in the ‘bye’, with Lisa reaching the island green at the par five 18th with a driver and two three-woods.
Back to school with Dad on Tuesday next, these ten year olds still have plenty of golf to play this year as they bid to get down to single figures before the end of the season.
After suffering at their tiny hands at the K Club, we are unlikely to have heard the last of Ballyconnell’s wee wonders.