Tandragee Telegraph Edn 13 – Professional Special

In this special edition we catch up with PGA & Club Professional Dympna Keenan. We interviewed Dympna recently talking all things TGC, eBay and life in general.

How long have you been at Tandragee and how has the place changed in that time?

I started in 2002 which is almost ten years! The membership has changed over that time, many have come and gone. Overall, there are less people (members) playing golf, however visitor numbers are higher. The downturn is probably down to younger members taking time out for families etc. With the new holes (8, 9 & 10) being built just before I arrived, the course hasn’t changed too much in that time.

How many years have you been a professional and how did it all start for you?

I turned pro in 1995 and worked my apprenticeship in Warrenpoint. My mum and dad were bar stewards at Downpatrick Golf Club and our house was on the premises so it made it very easy to sneak out of the house to practice! I started playing when I was 12, I won’t tell you how many years ago that was! There are around 12 female pro’s in Ireland, although I’m one of only two that hold a ‘Head Professional’ position in the North and there is one other based down in Tramore Golf Club in Waterford.

Who are your favourite male & female golfers?

Probably Sophie Gustafson – because she also drinks Guinness!! I like Luke Donald and I still admire Tiger Woods. When teaching our Juniors, I always send them home to watch Luke Donald, everything about him is just perfect. Tiger I think will come back, will he ever win another Major? Well, if Darren Clarke can win one…!!!!

When you go home do you switch off from golf or are you watching golf on TV at night?

I only really watch the majors, the TV in my house is seldom on. My thing at the moment is jigsaws! 3000 piece ones! And I’ve also been taking a course to become a ‘Fitness Instructor’ – I never thought it was going to be as difficult- currently I am learning about the anatomy and bone structure etc. Maybe I’ll get some fitness classes going once I graduate! During the summer, the days are long and I don’t get home until 8.30-9pm and a lot of my day is spent teaching so only really in the winter do I have time for hobbies and relaxation!

Tell us about the business and how it operates…

The shop is staffed mostly by myself and Angela. During the summer we both work most days, we take a Monday off which is covered by Trevor and in the summer when it’s busy we have Jack in to help also. Angela is fully qualified, probably better qualified than myself! She has completed the modern version of the PGA exams and has a foundation degree from Birmingham University – which means we have 2 fully qualified PGA Professionals which is great for Tandragee. On the income side of the business there are various sources of income. The club pay me a retainer for providing services to TGC and I also receive a percentage of green fees. One of the biggest earners for me is teaching, I do a lot of that – not so much at this time of year. Then finally, there’s income on the retail side of the shop and competition vouchers which is very important.

How has the internet, eBay and other online stores affected your business?

I can’t really compare, I have been in business 10 years and that’s just about as long as the internet’s been competing. I’m a member of a 400 strong buying group which allows us to compete with online stores. My biggest problem is trying to get the message out to members and local golfers that we can compete with online stores, Nevada Bobs, American Golf, local Pro’s etc. We have a price matching policy in place that applies to the local stores and in the case of the internet I would ask members if they have an online price, bring it to me – more often than not I can match it, and I can guarantee that the after-sales service (such as warranty, return, repair etc.) is much better face-to-face with your local golf professional than with a faceless online system. One thing I won’t price match with is eBay. There are so many horror stories out there with eBay – fake clubs, breakdowns, no returns, no warranty – that’s what you get with ebay. Buyer beware!

What simple things does the club golfer neglect year in, year out?

Well if you were in the shop this morning when I was doing a grip you would have seen it took me nearly 5 minutes to get the grip off it was that badly worn! It has been proven that changing your grips regularly , changing your spikes and shoes regularly does make a big difference to your game. Even your glove. Golf is a contact sport after all, so those contacts with the club and the ground need to be as good as they can be. If your grips are worn, you tend to grip the club more tightly, if you grip tightly, everything’s too tight – that restricts good swing movements. Stability of stance for your swing is a fundamental – and that boils down to your spikes! Amateurs also don’t clean their clubs properly – the grooves in the face are there for a reason, make sure they are visibile and free from dirt!

When teaching TGC club members, what technical issues do your see regularly?

The basics really – the grip, how they setup to the ball, pre-shot routines. These are simple things that do make the game easier. I try not to be too technical when I give lessons. Lessons are so important. I still take lessons!

Some golfers are equipment junkies! What advice do you have for keeping up-to-date?

It is important to update your equipment due to technological advances. Your driver maybe every 2 years, however most tend to change their driver rather than take a golf lesson. 9 times out of 10 the problem is with the swing, setup or grip – not the driver! With irons, the shaft after a certain length of time loses it’s effectiveness, it’s kick-point. As for when you should change – I’d say if you have a set 5 or 6 years, then it’s time to update.

Tell us about your work with the Tandragee Juniors…

That’s been the big development in recent years. In the last 3 years we’ve been very succesful winning 2 Ronan Rafferty titles, a Fred Daly title and a Craigavon Trophy title. It’s very important work with regard to the future of the club. We have 56 Juniors and we hope to grow those numbers in the years to come. The hardest part of this work is to replace those good golfers that move from the Junior ranks once they are 18 – we have had some very good golfers in this category and it was painful to lose them!

What do we have here at Tandragee as compared with other courses in this area?

Firstly, we have a course that seldom closes which is fantastic. The course is quite difficut, provides a good challenge – even though you wouldn’t think that Saturday after Saturday when the scores come in! But the layout is superb and it gets you ready to play other courses. This is evident in how the club are competing locally, golfers from Tandragee are well prepared and well skilled to take on any challenge on any course layout. The course doesn’t need too much investment. Maybe a bit of drainage here and there, a bit of tidying here and there but that’s it. I’d like to see the greens run faster at times though!

What key message would you like to get out to TGC members?

That we’re open for business! That we are here for advice and guidance to all TGC members. As mentioned previously we do have price matching policies so I’m keen for members to come and test me out!

Dympna Keenan can be contacted on [email protected] or 02838 841 761.