A quick 18 with Paul Flynn: "Never underestimate anyone"

A quick 18 with Paul Flynn: "Never underestimate anyone"
 Former Waterford hurler Paul Flynn (Tramore Golf Club) pictured at the GUI National Golf Academy today to launch the 2016 AIG Cups & Shields. Picture by Pat Cashman

Former Waterford hurler Paul Flynn (Tramore Golf Club) pictured at the GUI National Golf Academy today to launch the 2016 AIG Cups & Shields. Picture by Pat Cashman

This feature first appeared in the Irish Independent's Thursday, Tee to Green supplement on 21 July 2016

Waterford’s Paul Flynn was a wonderful hurler, steering his county to three Munster titles, including a famous breakthrough win in 2002. 

He retired from hurling in 2008 but as a scratch player, he gets his sporting thrills on the golf course these days.

While the Liam McCarthy Cup eluded him during his storied career, All-Ireland success eventually came his way in 2014 when Tramore Golf Club captured the AIG Senior Cup at Carton House.

  • Handicap: Scratch
  • Club: Tramore

1 How did you get into golf?

I  used to play a little pitch and putt with the lads but we wanted to hit the ball harder and harder, and so we went for a game of golf. I joined Faithlegg in 1995 where Ted Higgins was the pro. And I was a member there for 14 or 15 years and then I joined Tramore. I was probably 21 or 22 when I played golf for the first time.

2 How quickly did you get down to scratch?

My first handicap was 16. Then I got cut to 12, then to eight, then to six, four and then to two within three years. I was off two for eight or nine years and then joined Tramore off 0.5. They have a very good senior cup team and I got to +1.9 there.

3 You’ve played in several of our amateur majors. Do people underestimate how tough they are?

Yes. I started wasting my money playing in championships but I’m done with that now. I enjoy it and I enjoy the craic. In fact, I enjoyed the craic too much and with two young kids at home and work,  it’s too much. The standard is very high — full time golfers and internationals.

4 People like to poke fun at the scratch men shooting 90s. How tough is it?

I was one of those guys. You’d havea friend in the field and he’d shoot 77 or 78 and you’d be tut-tuting at the scores, saying how could they shoot that kind of score if they are off scratch or plus two But they’re played in bad weather off the back tees. It was a lightbulb moment when I played a few myself.

5 You played the West several times and only missed one cut. What’s the secret to conquering Rosses Point?

It’s a course that suits me and the rough isn’t up at that time of year. I was struggling to make the cut in my second year, I was holding on to a 150 total after a bad front nine and had to par my way in from the 11th, playing back into the wind. I stood up on the par-three 13th and the pin was right back beside water. I wanted to keep it left and at the last minute I pushed right and ended up nearer the beach than the green.

I hit a provisional but a Clare man came out of sand dunes in the yellow sou’wester — the hood would’t stay up in the wind. “Paul Flynn? What are you playing?” he asked.

“TaylorMade 4.”

“Come with me,” he said. There it was, down on the stones. Anyway, I holed a 40 footer for three. And I said, ‘You’re coming with me the rest of the way.” Made it on the number. We chatted hurling all the way in.

6 What’s your best score?

A six under 66 in a competition in Tramore off the blues back in 2013.

7 Driver or putter?

Always driver. That’s the thrill, isn’t it?

8 What was your most memorable shot?

My second to the 18th in the All Ireland semifinal against Rosslare. I was one down and hit an eight iron to about four feet to go up tie holes and won on the 20th. We won the Senior Cup that year. It’s my biggest achievement in golf.

9 Were you aware of the status of the AIG Cups and Shields?

Oh yeah. I’d always read about Eddie Power, the three time Irish Close winner. He always got lots of coverage, being from Tramore. Then first time I saw the Senior Cup trophy was in Castlerock in 2011. I thought, ‘What a trophy!’ Little did I know that three years later I would win it.

10 Name your favourite par-three?

The 13th at Rosses Point is a beauty! Haha. Maybe the third at Mount Juliet. That’s a class hole — a five or six iron for me. The old third in Lahinch was great too.

11 Who is your favourite player?

Fred Couples. It’s his rhythm. I saw him play Tom Watson in Shell's Wonderful World of Golf at Mount Juliet in 1997. He seems to be more of a natural player than a coached player.

12 Favourite major?

The Masters as a tournament. But my favourite day in golf is the final day of the British Open. The BBC coverage was always. class.

13 A course you’d love to play before you die?

The obvious one —  Augusta National. If not, Royal Melbourne.

14 Your dream fourball?

Fred Couples, Bruce Springsteen — I’m a fanatic — and Phil Mickelson. That would be a great day out.

 Paul Flynn (Tramore) plays from a bunker at the 19th hole in the  semi final of the 2014 AIG Senior Cup at Carton House (19/09/2014). Picture by Pat Cashman

Paul Flynn (Tramore) plays from a bunker at the 19th hole in the  semi final of the 2014 AIG Senior Cup at Carton House (19/09/2014). Picture by Pat Cashman

14 Who is your sporting hero?

Sean Kelly the cyclist, a Waterford man and a guy I know well. And John Treacy, who was also on the world stage. Kelly was tough, he was aggressive, the best in the world for a long time. I know he didn’t win the Tour de France but he is so respected by so many in the sport, that’s the ultimate accolade. Whether you have an All Ireland medal or a World Cup medal or not, if you have the respect of your peers, that’s the essence of it. 

15 Is there a mulligan you’d like in sport or life?

It’s the 1998 Munster final. I had a last minute free against Clare — a chance to win it from my own 45 from 110 yards out and I just barely missed. I’d love to have had a second serve on that one. We won the Munster title in ’04 but if we had won one in 1998, that would have made our progression faster. We definitely would have won another Munster before ’04 and possibly an All Ireland too. We lost in the ’08 final and I retired after that. We won three Munster titles but had we won in 1998 it would have accelerated that.

16 What’s your idea of perfect happiness?

Peace of mind.

17 Who is your favourite fictional hero?

Roy of the Rovers.

18 A motto?

It’s never over ’til it’s over. Never underestimate anyone.

This feature first appeared in the Irish Independent's Thursday, Tee to Green supplement on 21 July 2016. Tee to Green returns after a two-week Christmas break on 5 January 2017.