Irish international golfer Aideen Walsh has had, by anyone’s standards, a fantastic season so far. On her first international tour this year, she won the Ulster Stroke Play and was part of the team that won the AIG Women’s Senior Cup, to name but a few of her accolades.
Although she is an amateur golfer, she has been invited to play in professional competitions. Case in point, the KPMG Women’s Irish Open, taking place this weekend from 22 to 25 September. Here she will join a field that includes none other than Leona Maguire.
The Women’s Irish Open will be played on a course Aideen knows very well, Dromoland Castle in her home county of Clare. A native of Ennis, Aideen is a member of both Lahinch and Dromoland golf clubs, but does most of her practice in Dromoland, as that’s where her coach is based.
Given her achievements in the golfing world, one would think (well this writer did, anyway) that Aideen must have parents embedded in the sport, but that’s not the case. She came to play golf through just trying different sports when she was younger.
“My dad plays pitch and putt. He never really took the step to golf, but we were always sport mad at home. I’ve three brothers and one of them, Cormac, is a green keeper. We would have been the two that would have been brought to all the different sports.
“My dad was signing him up for golf and I tagged along. I was like, ‘If he’s starting, I’m starting. Why’s he starting and I’m not?’” Aideen laughs fondly. “Then I started there in Woodstock Golf Club outside Ennis and I was the only girl. I played with the boys.”
Aideen was 12 when she started playing golf, which she says is actually quite late; a lot of children start playing now around eight or nine. At the time she was still playing lots of sports, including soccer and camogie – top tip, playing camogie or hurling is great to develop a golf swing, Aideen reckons.
However, Aideen really took to golf. “I loved it,” she says simply, and clearly still does.
At around 15 she started to focus more on golf. Now a primary school teacher, she balances subbing three days a week with golf, and Aideen is passionate about getting children to try lots of different sports.
By the time she was 17, Aideen moved to playing at Lahinch Golf Club. It was there she was first exposed to international female golfers.
“We’ve such a great team in Lahinch. There were all these girls who have played with Ireland and I was mixing with them. I thought, maybe I could play for Ireland and take the next step. Then all that happened this year,” Aideen explains.
Women’s Irish Open
Aideen thought her 2022 golf season was over a couple of weeks ago, that is until the Sports Direct ambassador received her invitation to play at the Irish Open. The event is returning after a 10-year hiatus. Interestingly, since Aideen began playing golf competitively, the Women’s Irish Open has never taken place.
A fan of the, ‘Can’t see it, can’t be it’ philosophy for women’s sport, Aideen says it’s important to have high-profile women’s sporting events for young girls to attend and/or be exposed to.
“I’m playing golf about 12 years, and as long as I’ve been playing golf competitively, there’s never been a ladies’ Irish Open. It’s great to have it back and hopefully now we can hit the ground running in Dromoland. I think it’s really important that the younger girls coming through the ranks have something like an Irish Open, a professional event at home, that they can aspire towards.”
On the location of the competition – in that it’s taking place on a course Aideen plays often – she feels there are both positives and negatives.
“It’s a positive that I know the course, but it can be a negative in the sense that there can be expectations because of this. I know that I have to manage those expectations, because anything can happen on the day in golf. Just because I know the course doesn’t mean it’s a given, so there’s two sides to it.”
With much talked about in this interview in the realms of golf and sport in general, there’s only one question this writer has left to ask: has Aideen any thoughts of going pro?
“I have no real intention of turning pro at the moment. I’m a primary school teacher, so balancing that with golf seems to suit me fine. But, you never know. I didn’t think I’d play golf at this level, so you never know. I didn’t think I’d be playing in the Women’s Irish Open. It’s all very exciting and it’s all a bit mad.”
Aideen is down to earth as ever and all that’s left to do is to tee-up on home ground this weekend.