Playing in front of thousands at the Aviva Stadium might be second nature to Irish rugby star Rob Kearney but stand him up on the first tee of a golf course and he’ll be a bag of nerves, writes the Golfing Union of Ireland.
He’s even worse if he’s taking on the best golfers in the Irish rugby squad – Johnny Sexton, Brian O’Driscoll or Paul O’Connell.
“I always find that really funny. You say it to people and they say: ‘Oh, you can play rugby in front of 80,000 but you can’t hit a golf ball on the first’,” Kearney said at the launch of the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Golf Skills Challenge.
“The nerves you’d feel on the first tee box compared to anything else… it’s just natural.
“I suppose when you’re on a rugby field, you’re just so comfortable in your own ability. You know your capabilities where on a first tee box, if you hit the ball anywhere it’s a good sign. I suppose it’s just because you’re not as confident in what you’re doing.”
Competition with the Leinster and Ireland squads is intense and there’s no let up when the players take to the fairways.
“Johnny Sexton is probably the best. Himself or Brian O’Driscoll, the two of them would probably be up there. You’d throw Paul O’Connell into that list as well,” Kearney expained at the lauch at the GUI National Academy at Carton House.
“The summer was great because it was bright in the evenings and we were staying here (at Carton House) overnight. It was before the World Cup, it probably felt a bit more like we were preparing for the Ryder Cup.”
During this year’s Six Nations campaign, the Irish squad returned to Carton House, where they enjoyed a coaching session with Shane Lowry during their stay. And Kearney admits he’d love to have the affable Offaly man in his dream fourball alongside Tiger Woods and Seve Ballesteros.
“That lad (Lowry) is serious craic. He seems like a fella who’d enjoy a good round. He’s hugely gifted. He’s a very gifted golfer. There’s very little process to him.
“He would probably consider himself not the most technical golfer, he just gets up and hits the ball. You have to admire that too because it just illustrates sheer talent. That’s something that you just have to stand back and admire.”
Having scaled incredible heights as a professional rugby player, Kearney has no shortage of admiration for Lowry and his like.
“I do admire golfers hugely just in terms of their mental ability. I think no other sport in the world compares to the highs and lows that they can go through in the space of a couple of minutes on a golf course.”
There will be plenty of highs and lows for Irish golfers taking part in the first ever Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Golf Skills Challenge.
Men and women of all abilities will be tested across seven different skills: Driving, 135-metre shot, pitching, up and down, bunker-play, difficult lies and putting.
The competition is open to all golfers over the age of 18, who have an official GUI or ILGU handicap. Enter at www.learntogolf.ie