A quick 18 with Anthony Foley

A quick 18 with Anthony Foley
Anthony Foley

Anthony Foley

The late Anthony Foley was the first golfing enthusiast to answer the call and do the Quick 18 Q&A with me for the Irish Independent's Thursday "Tee To Green" golf supplement. Tragically, he passed away just a few weeks later at the age of 42 and while we had never met, his good nature shone through during our quick "round".

Club: Shannon

Handicap: 17

1—How’s your golf?

I play off 17. That’s not very good but that’s life at the moment. You can’t do anything about bad golf.

2—How did you get started? 

I used to work in the pitch and putt course in Killaloe as a young fella, making a few bob during the summer so I went from pitch and putt and didn’t get into golf until I was 17 or 18 years of age. So I was a latecomer to it. But coming from a pitch and putt background, my pitching and putting wouldn’t be great at the moment. (Laughs) But it was a good way to kill time during the summer, good craic and a great facility to have in the town where you were growing up. The 50p we had was the gambling money. 50p a head, winner takes all. That’s pressure. There were a lot of bandits.

3—What’s your golfing ambition? 

At the moment my ambition in golf would be to drop my handicap by two or three shots but it’s getting the time to do it that’s the problem.

4—Greatest golfing memory?

Not too many but I had a hole-in-one on the 17th at Shannon a few years ago. My best score was an unofficial, two over [74] around Portumna but that’s a long, long, long time ago - when I was a rugby player and I played a bit more. At the moment, unfortunately, I don’t do that.

5—Favourite club in the bag?

I’ve fallen out with all of them. (Laughs). Look, the day the driver is going well for you is the day it will turn around. But I suppose the favourite club I have is my 8-iron. That might be it. At least, it puts me in less trouble than all the other clubs. (Laughs).

6—What’s your most treasured possession?

My memorabilia from my playing day. Heineken Cup medals, jerseys. As a rugby player, every jersey has a story, especially the ones that are embroidered. They all bring back memories. You don’t go around with a bag of memories but when you look at one of your jerseys, it all floods back. They are always important. If a player, any type of player, gives a jersey away to someone it’s special because you are giving away a load of memories there.  I have my Irish jerseys, and I love them. And I have Jonah Lomu’s schoolboys jersey and there are massive, massive memories around that with all that has happened since. My Heineken Cup jersey too. Every jersey you pull out will tell you a different story. 

7—Your favourite par three?

The Dell is Lahinch, where you hit over the stone. It’s a lovely hole. It’s a different hole. The 14th at Doonbeg before it was taken away. That was another one you enjoyed, even if it was only a 90-yard shot. I played the new Doonbeg recently and with a bit more time and patience, I think it’s going to be incredible. What they have done tidying up the place is incredible. In time, it is going to be an unbelievable golf course. 

8—Favourite golfer?

I follow the Irish lads to be honest. Lowry or Harrington, or McGinley back in the day when they were up there, Harrington and Clarke, you’d follow those lads.

9—Do you have a greatest regret from your career?

Plenty of them. Plenty. You go into a real dark place when you think of some of them. I think it was 2001, you might check the year, and we had New Zealand on the rack at Lansdowne Road at halftime and they came back and beat us in the second half. 
We had them in Dunedin as well another time and they came back and pipped us in the end. When you go through you career and you’ve beaten Australia, beaten South Africa and have never beaten New Zealand, you feel unfulfilled. They are the ones that everybody measures themselves by. 

10—I guess you can see why Rory McIlroy wants the Masters or Phil Mickelson the US Open?

Yeah. Everyone has their mountains to climb. 

11—What’s your favourite major?

The Masters. I think it’s iconic. The way the patrons are treated. The way it is laid out. I have spoken to a few people who have played the course and it is incredible. The whole aura around the place is very special?

12—A course you’d love to play before you die?

Augusta National has to be the one that every golfer wants to play. There are a few more around America too. But really, some of the best golf courses you can play are in Ireland. They are incredible. I’ve played Lahinch a few times, Shannon is a hidden gem. Tralee is incredible. Ballybunion, Killarney. If you go through a list of them, you are only insulting the ones you leave out. 

13—A dream fourball?

You know what — Gary Player, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. That’s a dream fourball. The Big Three. The original big three. My partner? Gary Player. He’s a terrier. 

14—A sporting hero?

Growing up they were rugby players: the Wards, the Campbells, the Moss Keanes. They were the guys I looked up to. The guys who would have played with my father. At the moment I wouldn’t really have any. 

15—A mulligan in sport or in life?

The 2000 Heineken Cup final [lost 9-8 to Northampton Saints]. I think we had done enough to win the game. We just didn’t win the game. Maybe it was the fact that we just did enough. Maybe needed to do more than enough. We were just up against a very wily, experienced team and they just hung on. That’s a big regret.

16—If there was something you could change about yourself, what would it be?

I’d like to take a one off my handicap. That’s about it. No, you are what you are and get on with it. 

17—Do you have any fictional heroes?

Not Roy of the Rovers. Maybe Billy’s Boots. Or James Bond. I am a bit of a James Bond fan.

18—A motto? 

I guess “Treat people as you’d like to be treated yourself.” That’s it. 

This Quick 18 first appeared in the Irish Independent's Tee to Green golf supplement on July 28