Steve Staunton had a storied career as a footballer, playing in three World Cups and becoming the first man to win 100 caps for the Republic of Ireland. He’s also an enthusiastic golfer and just a couple of good rounds away from becoming a low, single figure player.
- Club: Aston Wood
- Handicap: “a bad 8”
1 How’s your golf?
I had my hip done last year but prior to that I was playing good golf. It’s one of those. Golf is golf. I am not going to be a pro. I play at Aston Wood outside Sutton Coldfield and I love it.
2 How did you get into the game?
I’ve been playing since I was a kid. Myself and my brother would always play golf, especially in the summertime. Even though I never played much when I was playing football, once you get the bug, you can’t shake it off. It’s like riding a bike. Once you’ve ridden a bike, you never forget.
3 Did Santa Claus give you clubs?
I grew up in Dundalk and played at Dundalk Golf Club. I didn’t get into the game going for lessons or going to the range. I just love playing the game, the walk, the fresh air. We went straight into golf when we were six or seven, even though our Dad couldn’t stand golf.
4 So how did you get up to Dundalk to play golf?
It’s called a bicycle. We cycled there, played golf, came back. It’s one of those. You either love golf or you don’t. I do. Now, can I go off to the practice ground? No. Can I go hitting balls or putting? No. I just love going out to play.
5 Do you take it seriously? Did you want to get down to scratch?
No. But I’ll be a good eight handicapper next year. Golf never interested me as a competitive sport. The only thing that interested me was football. That’s the truth. Golf was a nice distraction. It was good mental therapy. Call it what you want. You get out there for four or five hours, engaging with good people and it takes you away from what you do.
6 Are you happier playing with pals or strangers?
You are better with strangers at times. You are totally disconnected.
7 I hear you are good for the odd story when you’re playing?
Ah, now. I’d have to be careful here. (laughs)
8 What’s the strength of your game?
I’m competitive. I don’t know a sportsman who isn’t. I’m disappointed, for example, with how I played yesterday. But a few weeks ago I played really well. And when it goes for you, the cup is like a bucket.
9 What’s your biggest golfing achievement?
I was four under nett at The Belfry off the yellows — four over gross. My lowest handicap when I was a kid was five or six, I can’t remember which. But the big ball had a stronger pull at the time — Gaelic or soccer. I went from St. Dominic’s to England when I was 16 and never looked back.
10 Driver or putter?
It depends on the day. I find if your driver is working, your putter is not and vice versa.
11 Have you ever had a hole in one?
I’ve had a hole in one. One. It was on the ninth at Little Aston, 174 yards, a four-iron into the wind. We couldn’t find the ball and eventually, we looked in the hole. Peter Schmeichel saw it.
12 So you had to buy a very expensive round of drinks for everyone in the clubhouse afterwards, presumably.
No. Little Aston is one of those places — Millionaire’s Golf they call it There’s never more than half a dozen people there. It was myself, Schmeichel, Steve Stone and Olof Mellberg.
13 What’s your most treasured possession? If the house goes on fire, what's the first thing you'll save?
Once the kids and the missus are out of the house, I don’t care about other stuff.
14 Do you have a hero? Someone you admired?
Only my father Tom. He set the standards.
15 You do a lot of work for the Shabra Foundation. Why do you do it?
Rita Shah is a fantastic woman and I just want to give something back. I met Rita through Ian Rush and she’s a fabulous woman What she does to help people is amazing. People don’t give her enough credit. Oliver Brady was a character too. If you can help good people do good things, that’s what it is all about. I can’t believe that a country like ours with the calibre of people we have, that we have to do these things to make things happen.
16 Do you have any regrets about your career?
No. I am very happy. Very happy. My only regret is talking to you now while I am trying to eat a bacon sandwich.(Laughs) But look, it was Roy of the Rovers stuff. My kids didn’t even believe it up until a few years ago not until they started Googling it.
17 What’s your career highlight?
Too many to mention. I have been very fortunate. I played in three World Cups. I won the League, I won the FA Cup, two League Cups, played for my country, that’s something I wanted to do. No regrets.
18 Is there a course you'd love to play and who are your favourite golfers?
I’d love to play Carnoustie but I’d have to be swinging well. As for golfers, I love underdogs and seeing good people do well, whether they are Irish, Scottish, British, European or American.
This piece first appeared in the Irish Independent's Tee to Green supplement on 6 October 2016