A quick 18 with Eoin "Bomber" Liston: "I don’t think Sonny Liston was from the Ballybunion branch"

A quick 18 with Eoin "Bomber" Liston: "I don’t think Sonny Liston was from the Ballybunion branch"
Eoin Liston, pictured in Waterville to honour his former coach Mick O'Dwyer, in August 2015

Eoin Liston, pictured in Waterville to honour his former coach Mick O'Dwyer, in August 2015

This feature first appeared in the Irish Independent's Thursday, Tee to Green supplement on 8 September 2016

Eoin “Bomber” Liston remains one of life’s positive thinkers and a lifelong golf lover. His first  golf “club” was a Coca Cola bottle but he eventually graduated to "the real thing" as a young caddie in Ballybunion and hasn’t look back in 50 years on the fairways.

  • Club: Tralee
  • Handicap: 11

1 How did you get into golf?

I’m from Ballybunion and I started caddying there when I was eight or nine years old. We used to be putting with Coca Cola bottles for want of clubs. In fairness to the pro Brendan Houlihan, he used to give us cut down clubs to get started and boy, having your own polished club to take home was special. So that’s where the golf came from. We were allowed play a few holes, no problem whatsoever. There were plenty of quiet times then and if you had a club or two, by God it was just fantastic. What a playground. It was a lovely set up too because you’d finish school and head down to the old first and could play that those three holes and end up back at the clubhouse. And then it would be, ‘sure we’ll play another three.’ We often played until well after dark.

2 Are their any All Irelands on your golfing CV? Or is it just for fun?

There are no All Irelands, no. I played in the Jimmy Bruen and the Pierce Purcell for different clubs — Waterville, Ballybunion and Tralee. Mick O’Dwyer and myself represented Waterville and really enjoyed it but now I’m just up for a friendly, competitive fourball. Sadly, my handicap is only going one direction. I’ve always had trouble pitching and chipping it but I still love the game. I love playing it still with my friends

3 What’s you happiest golfing memory?

One of my favourite ones was when Ogie (Moran) and myself took on Joe Hayes and Nicky English down in Portugal. They beat us but it was a great game.

4 Driver or putter?

Oh, driver. Driver without a doubt. I’m getting short now mind.

5 Have you ever had a hole in one?

Not yet! Not yet. And my best shot is yet to come too.

6 What’s your most treasured possession?

Good question. I’d have to say, a video of my kids when they were young. They’re 30 and 26 now, Eoghan and Katie. 

7 What’s your favourite par three?

It must be the 15th on the Old Course in Ballybunion. I’ve played drivers there and I’ve played eight irons. You just have to hit a perfect shot. It’s always a challenge, a hole that I love taking on. That said, the 16th in Tralee is another fantastic par three.

8 If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’d give up a yard of my distance off the tee just to be able to chip the ball. I’ve love to be a good pitcher or chipper. It’s a beautiful part of the game. I’d love to have the touch of a Shane Lowry.

9 Who is your favourite golfer?

Pádraig Harrington was always my favourite player. The fun and enjoyment we got over the years watching him compete was just something money can’t buy. It means so much more when there is an Irish fella there. And Shane Lowry is giving me the same amount of enjoyment. 
I just love to see him out there competing too and I love to see him doing well. He’s a fantastic ambassador for Offaly, for Ireland, for the GAA and for golf. He’s got a lovely way about him and in my opinion, he should have no regrets about the US Open. He gave it everything. And he’ll play a good few Ryder Cups yet. He has it all - the touch and the power. He has a great future.

10 What’s your favourite major?

I’d say Padraig Harrington winning his first one, even though he nearly gave us heart attack going into the water twice at the last before he beat Garcia in the playoff. That was just nerve-wracking.

11 It was a shame Pádraig’s dad ever got to see him win The Open. Did you know Paddy Harrington from his GAA days?

When my father joined the guards, they were based at the same Garda station in Dublin many moons ago. And we’d have known him as a Corkman in the GAA. And we’ve been lucky enough to get to know Pádraig through the Pádraig Harrington Golf Classic. We’d go up every year for that. He’s just an absolute gentleman. 

12 Is there a course you’d love to play before you die?

Augusta. I haven’t been to the Masters yet but there’s always hope. That and the Ryder Cup are two fantastic weeks. I love it. 

13 Name your dream fourball.

Do you know what, I’d take on Joe Hayes and Nicky English again. With Ogie as my partner. Around Augusta! If we win, we can have the best of three over the Old Course at St Andrews.

14 Who is your sporting hero or someone you’ve very much admired in sport?

Muhammad Ali was always a hero of mine. I was born in ’57 and I was a youngster when he was coming up, I remember he fought a fella by the name of Sonny Liston. I don’t know if I thought he was a cousin of mine or what but when Ali beat Sonny Liston, I took to him and I followed his career. He was fierce entertainer as well as everything else. I don’t think Sonny Liston was from the Ballybunion branch of the Listons mind. (Laughing). He was a bit of bold boy by all accounts. 

15 If you had a mulligan in sport, what would it be?

The last few minutes of the 1982 All Ireland final, when we were going for the five-in-a-row against Offaly. We’d take a mulligan there. If only Shane Lowry’s father Brendan hadn’t played so well! We’d like those last few minutes again. But I have got over it at this stage. Honestly.

16 What’s your idea of perfect happiness?

To me, perfect happiness is what I have in my life now. I wouldn’t swap with too many people. Family and friends in a nice community. Those are the three essential things.

17 Who is your fictional hero?

Billy Whizz from the old Beano. I’d love to have had his pace! (Laughs). 

18 What’s the Eoin Liston motto?

Just enjoy life to the best of your ability.

This feature first appeared in the Irish Independent's Thursday, Tee to Green supplement on 8 September 2016. Tee to Green returns after a two-week Christmas break on 5 January 2017.