A Quick 18 with Michael Carruth

A Quick 18 with Michael Carruth
 Michael Carruth with his father Austin in Barcelona 1992

Michael Carruth with his father Austin in Barcelona 1992

He won welterwight gold for Ireland in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. Now Michael Carruth’s biggest battle is to get his handicap down to single figures. His dream? A round at Augusta. 

  • Handicap: 14
  • Club: Killeen Golf Club

1 How's your golf?

I was down to 12 at one stage, but I got a few shots back last year that I didn't want.  But I am hitting it better now. It's a game I love. It's a game that's frustrating, and I am a guy who likes winning. So golf tests every bit of your character. It's a great game.

2 Where do you play?

I'm a member of Killeen, and I've been there for 20 years. It was called Four Lakes when I took up golf and it was one of the first clubs where I played a full game. When I moved to Naas and took up golf, we bought a house four miles from the golf course. I can pop up and do some chipping or putting when the evenings are fine. Someone once called golf a good walk spoiled, but they obviously never played the game.

3 How did you get started?

I had my first game when I came back from the Olympics in '92 having played a lot of pitch and putt with my brothers Martin and William. We used to go up to hit balls at the school, chipping up to the trees or at one of the goalposts. Then we'd go up to Spawell to play pitch and putt and it went from there. My first game was actually in Killeen with the Greenhills Golf Society with my brothers and my dad.

4 How did you do?

I had a crazy score. They gave me a 28 handicap and I had 42 or 44 points. I think they  cut me 16 shots! I obviously then went to the Olympics and did what I had to do there and a few clubs offered me membership. But I joined Killeen. I've always loved the people there.

5 Driver or putter?

Driving would be a strong part of my game. I am not a big hitter but I tend to be straight. My putting can sometimes let me down, for want of a better word.

6 Are you a casual golfer or do you take it seriously?

You have to be ready for golf. Golf is recreational as well as competitive. If you've been out the night before, you might regret it. It's like any sport, if you don't put in the work, you can't expect to perform. I couldn't step into a ring without having prepared. As they say, the more you practice, the luckier you get. And you can't come in the gate on two wheels. You have to warm up.  I'm never going to win a major but I'd like to get my handicap down to single figures just once — 9.4 at some stage would be great.

7 Was that always your ambition?

I once told my dad, 'I am going to win the Olympics, I'm going to be a scratch golfer and I am going to win the British Open.' One out of three ain't bad.

8 Name your dream fourball.

My favourite golfer of all time was Severiano Ballesteros. An absolute genius. The greatest scrambler I've ever seen. He was fun; he was passionate. He had it all and for me, he's unquestionably No 1. No2 would be Jack, the Golden Bear — a legend in the sport. He'll never be surpassed. My last would be Rory because he's Irish. He's won four majors and might have won more by now. He's coming back to his glory days again and hopefully he can win that green jacket to complete the grand slam. That would be the ultimate fourball.

9 Do you think we'll ever see Rory complete the Golden Slam? All four majors and an Olympic gold?

The lads gave a few excuses not to play last year and it is what it is. We move on. But I'd love to see him represent the country in the Games. When you win medals for the country, it gives everyone a lift.

10 If I gave you a mulligan in your career, what would it be?

A major. A world title in the pro game. That would have been great. But I am happy with what I did. I had a great career and I made great friends.

11 Name your favourite Irish course?

I've played Doonbeg, which is fantastic. But I'd have to go for Lahinch. It's unbelievable. Anthony Daly brought me down two years ago.

12 What about a favourite hole?

The Dell in Lahinch. The blind par three. I didn't know where I was hitting.  'Bang it over the stone,' they said. Beautiful hole. Beautiful part of the country, Co Clare. 

13 Do you a bucket list of courses?

If I could play anywhere in the world, I'd pick Augusta, then Pebble Beach and Sawgrass. We all have X-Boxes at home these days and we can play all these courses now and we know them. Any golfer worth their salt would love to play St Andrews and Augusta. I'd love to get a smack around Amen Corner. I'll have to get my handicap down mind!

14 Name a golfer you'd think twice about facing in the ring?

Interesting. Greg Norman. The Great White Shark had a physical presence. I'd say he's a goer. Darren Clarke would be a good scrap too. Ernie Els? The Big Easy? Well, you have to watch the quiet ones. 

15 Who gets you excited in golf these days?

Tiger's best days are behind him now, but the sport still needs Tiger Woods. I'd stay up late to watch him. That shot on the 16th in the Masters, only Seve could have done that one. Mind you, we never thought we'd get something to match the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry and then we had Stenson and Mickelson last year. That was amazing. 

16 Tiger raised the bar with his physique, didn't he?

No question. Look at the pecs on Rory. They are all doing a lot of strength and conditioning. It's the same in all sports. That's what it takes to be a champion.

17 Who was your sporting hero?

My dad Austin was my hero. He was my coach, not just in boxing but in life. He was in my corner in Barcelona. He was my ultimate in that regard. 

18 He also got you to pick up a golf club.

Yes, I'd go golfing with him and his brothers, Victor and Syl in Swords. Victor would say, "that's a prodigious shot." He loved saying that. It was geat craic. My father passed away six years ago but we do a Pitch & Putt Classic every second year in aid of the Parkinson's Associaton of Ireland. We do that in his memory and to help out other people. Like golf, it brings people together. 

This feature first appeared in the Irish Independent's weekly Tee to Green golf supplement on 24 May 2017