13 Aug 2022

Talented Offaly golfer sets sights on US scholarship

Talented Offaly golfer sets sights on US scholarship

Evan Monaghan with golf star Jon Rahm at the British Open at St Andrew's last week.

WHILE he has big dreams and his sights set high, talented young Rahan golfer, Evan Monaghan is very much aware of the long road ahead of him as he bids to fulfill his considerable potential.

Heading into his Junior Certificate year at Killina Secondary School, the local man has shown outstanding ability, reaching a handicap of +1 already. 15 years of age, he has enjoyed some very noteworthy success on the underage amateur circuit.

He has competed for Ireland, playing well as they won a quadrangular tournament in Wales in April against Wales, Scotland and the Netherlands. He won the U-17 section at the Leinster U-18 Boys Amateur Open in Malahide just a few weeks ago, finishing tied sixth overall. He was joint second in the Munster U-16 boys open championship in Clonmel on June 22 and he finished tied 27th at the Connacht U-18 boys open in Galway Golf Club.

He won the Leinster U-16 close championship in 2021 and won an U-14 inter-provincial medal with Leinster. His home club is Tullamore while he is also a member in Esker Hills – he won All-Ireland boys inter-club titles with Tullamore in 2019 an 2018 at just 12 and 11 years of age.

He is very young and it suggests that he has a very bright future ahead of him. Last Thursday and Friday, he was an interested spectator at the British Open in St Andrew's along with his parents Brian and Mary and younger brother Cathal. Passionate about golf and very interested in its history, he was delighted to get to the home of the game at the legendary Scottish course and he savoured every moment of the trip.

They stayed in Edinburgh and had a great time at the golf, watching Tiger Woods, Shane Lowry and so many others in action, getting his picture taken with Jon Rahm. Unsurprisingly, that is his dream, to compete on the biggest stages in golf but that is a long way down the road. At the moment Evan Monaghan is very much focussed on baby steps, taking it one bit at a time and making the small, incremental but very important improvements that could lead to something very good over a period of time.

He is working on every aspect of his game, doing something with golf almost every day of the week. He has a lovely short game practice area at his Killina home, spends hours out there and he is very much aware of the importance of his short game to shooting low scores. He has also worked on his physicality, conditioning and fitness and he has a burning hunger to succeed.

He is also self driven. While his parents Brian and Mary are giving him every opportunity to develop, they are allowing him to pursue his own path. Brian, a key member of the Shamrocks team that went so close to winning a Senior Football Championship title in the 2000s, stressed that they are not pushing their son to do anything, they are not trying to live their dreams through him and are merely enabling him to do what he loves as much as they can.

Professionalism and anything else is a long way down the road, a pipedream at the moment and there are a lot of pitfalls and obstacles in the way. The possibility that he will fall out of love with the game or simply not make it is always there but at the moment, it is not a chore and he is loving every minute of it.

Evan's initial target is to secure a scholarship to a US College and this is already looming into the horizon. His results have gained the attention of some colleges and initial approaches have been made. This is a very realistic target, though it also means that he has to remember his education and exam results. This is not something that Brian and Mary are disappointed in and his exam results will determine any scholarship.

He took up golf at seven years of age and by nine, he was making progress as he went into the Leinster development squad. He played for Leinster, graduating to the Irish team this year as his handicap went from 28 to scratch and then inside that. He won events on the Irish junior tour circuit and this whetted his appetite for more as he became friends with other outstanding golfers – some of these have progressed to the Irish U-16 panel along with Evan.

He got down to single figures by the time he was 12 and as it became clear that he was very good, practice came easy. In the summer months, he plays golf almost every day, practicising on the rare days when he isn't on the course. He likes Tullamore while he also gets a lot from Esker Hills, where the different holes and terrain challenges different aspects of his game.

He will be playing further international matches this year, against England and in the Italian Boys Open. He is a fan of Shane Lowry, stating that he is a big inspiration.

Evan talked about the possibility of a scholarship to the USA and what he needs to do, the type of scholarships he could get.

“It is choosing the right place, not just taking it for the sake of taking it. The right location, weather wise. That there is a good resident coach, facilities and then there is the academic side as well,” said his father Brian.

The dream would be a big college but world ranking points and much more will determine all this. And this is one of the challenges facing Evan and his parents. To improve your world ranking, you have to compete in big international opens and competitions and this can be costly – support from sponsors and other people is crucial to allowing any young golfer or individual sports person to reach their potential.

“It's not easy, it is not achievable for everyone in that regard,” said Brian. Evan is coached by Eamon O'Flanagan, a renowned golf coach who operates out of the Heritage in Killenard while his Irish national coaches are Ian Kearney and Paul Kiely. He also has his own strength and conditioning coach, he gets sports psychology and a lot of support from Golf Ireland.

He sets targets for himself. A big one this year is no three putts and no double bogeys, something he is on course for while he gets up and down out of bunkers almost every time. He has played on the Senior Cup and Barton Shield teams in Tullamore this year, the two big scratch competitions on the Irish calendar – they were beaten by Naas in the semi-final of the Senior Cup and are in the semi-final of the Barton Shield, where him and Matthew Grehan are unbeaten.

He played a lot of his early golf with his grandfather, Frank Monaghan and his friend, Martin Dunne along with others. Evan really enjoyed this and has got a lot out of the mix of playing with both much older adults and his own peers. He had started holding golf clubs at Frank and Elsie Monaghan's house in Murrough, playing about on Frank's chipping area there. He first played golf in Rahan, a defunct course on the former Jesuit College land, now used for grazing sheep and then began to play each Sunday with Frank, Martin Dunne etc after joining Tullamore – his maternal grandfather, Paddy Cushen from Clara is also a member in Tullamore. Brian Monaghan had also taken up golf as a recreational sport while playing football in the 2000s but had given it up before getting going again after they moved into Killina a few years ago – he is also an adept golfer, playing off 7.2 while younger brother Cathal also plays and is on a Leinster area development panel. Cathal is 11 and has a junior handicap of 22 but is more into the recreational and fun side of it.

The former Tullamore Golf Club professional, Donagh McArdle helped Evan get up and going, giving him a full set of golf clubs for his seventh birthday as a present – something that Evan really appreciated.

He comes from GAA territory in Shamrocks and played football and hurling up to last year, but this year he made the difficult if inevitable decision to give these up to concentrate on golf. “It was difficult to do,” Evan acknowledged, stating that it was easier to play both during Covid but hard now with golf in full swing. He also stated that he had to avoid getting injury, though he has continued to play with school teams.

With golf a minority and individual sport, this has resulted in him going down a different road than his own school friends, though some of them also play golf. He has found himself a small bit isolated as a result but they have remained friends. He goes to Shamrocks matches and has travelled to Offaly matches with friends.

He stated that he understands the importance of study and education. Like any fifteen year old, he doesn't have his life mapped out but would like to have a career somewhere in golf if he doesn't manage to go the whole way – stating that he is not 100% sure, he would like to be able to do something in sports and business. He does know, however, that any US college with require a certain level of academic achievement and he is bracing himself for plenty of hard study in the coming years – though, his grimace suggests this is not exactly something he is looking forward to.

He is, however, very much looking forward to finding out where he can go with golf and he spoke with infectious enthusiasm about how much he enjoys the game. “I just got going at it and really got to understand the game. It is hard to explain to people who don't understand the game. I watched a lot of golf as well.”

His dream is to play Walker Cup and then turn professional but in the mean time, his only focus is on his short term goals - not three putting, keeping double bogeys off his card, making Irish squads, contending and winning big events, home and abroad. A very exciting process and one he is enjoying fully.

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