Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Seán Keeling talks an exciting future – Irish Golfer Magazine

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Seán Keeling wants to play on the PGA Tour, he wants to win Majors and he wants to become one of the greatest players in the world.

It might seem like lofty ambitions for a 17-year-old but the Roganstown talent has already proven himself at every grade on the way up.

He showed maturity to opt for Texas Tech instead of an early tilt at the professional ranks and there he will look to follow in the footsteps of the latest European sensation, Ludvig Aberg.

Keeling and the Swede already have one thing in common, they’ve both represented Europe at a Ryder Cup and won, and while the Irish pretender was playing in the Junior Ryder Cup, his performances that week in Rome were every bit as impressive.

There is no doubt that all signs point towards an exciting future on the world stage but his eyes for this week are on the domestic scene and Keeling is determined to break through another barrier and secure the Flogas Irish Men’s Amateur Open Championship which takes place at County Sligo Golf Club.

“I’m really looking forward to it. Since I saw it was going to be in Sligo I’ve been looking forward to it. Hopefully prepare well and then have a good week.” said Keeling.

Keeling has been in Sligo since Tuesday and today he will play his one and only practice round before he tees it up alongside recent West of Ireland champion Keith Egan, and Gregor Tait.

It is a place he knows so well, he has family living just 300 metres from the first tee with his aunt, Una Arnold and her husband Hugh, who is a member in County Sligo Golf Club.

“My uncle, he’s always been big into golf and he’s a member here so I remember the first time I played the big course I was probably 10 or 11 and yeah I loved it,” said Keeling.

“I always liked coming down and seeing my cousins, so it’s been a good place for me.”

Keeling’s introduction to golf came a little further north where his mother Caitriona hails from in Gweedore. He was as young as six when he took up his first golf summer camp in County Donegal. He has one younger brother, Fionnán, and two sisters Alanna and Maria but it was he and his older brother Patrick who really took to the game.

“Mam said join Roganstown and I just kind of fell in love with it after a while and I haven’t stopped since,” said Keeling and he joined the Made in Holywood Academy under the tutelage of Geoff Loughrey in Swords and success followed.

The Belvedere student was playing in the North of Ireland at Royal Portrush when he was only 12 and just three years later he won a Regional Qualifier for The Open. He was part of the Ireland U-16 Boys’ High-Performance squad, then the U-18 equivalent and this year is his first in the Men’s High-Performance setup.

In 2021 Keeling helped Roganstown secure an AIG Men’s Senior Cup and Fred Daly Trophy double and last year he was part of the successful R&A Boys’ Home Internationals team and the GB&I Team in the Jacques Leglise Trophy, before that memorable week in Rome for the Junior Ryder Cup.

That’s probably the best week I’ve had in golf for sure,” said Keeling.

“I don’t think I’ll forget it anytime soon. Just the experiences making new friends and then obviously on the golf course you’re playing in front of thousands of people and playing the day before the Ryder Cup and you’re getting to meet all the players.

“It’s a special experience and kind of whet the appetite for hopefully what’s to come in the future and definitely huge added motivation just seeing the golf and how good they are and knowing what to get to, so yeah it was an amazing week.”

The highlight of that week, apart from an historic victory, was undoubtedly Keeling and his future Texas Tech colleague, Connor Graham battling back from 6 down after nine holes for a precious half point against Jay Leng Jr and Billy Davis.

One Texas Tech alumni made his presence felt in the senior version at Marco Simone too and Keeling is inspired by what Ludvig Aberg has been able to produce in his short career so far.

“Seeing that he came from there (Texas Tech) and he’s gone through the PGA Tour youth system and got his PGA Tour card straight off that, it’s definitely something you would be looking at and aspiring to be yourself,” said Keeling.

2022 was a real breakthrough year for Keeling, he was Connacht U-18 Boys’ Open champion and he also won Ulster Boys’.He flourished on the international stage in 2023 including success at the Scottish Boys’ and his final year on that circuit he has begun in style with a seven-shot victory in the Flogas Irish Boys’ Amateur Open Championship at Ballybunion.

“I feel like my game is turning in the right direction,” said Keeling.

“There are still some things that I want to brush up on and improve on but yeah I’m happy it’s going in the right direction and things are improving. Hopefully hit a bit of form now in the middle of summer.”

More recently Keeling teamed up his good friend Hugh Foley along with Jack Hearn and Matt McClean to create more history and land Ireland’s second ever victory in the European Nations Team Championship at Sotogrande.

Now, as he plots his route to glory in the familiar surroundings of County Sligo, he’s focused on fine-tuning his game and he is well aware of the remaining pieces to his puzzle.

“A lot of it is actually mental work and on the golf course, your mindset over the shot and your planning of a shot and your preparation,” said Keeling.

“Just doing all those things that you can control and then kind of just freeing up and letting it happen and trying to focus on the approach rather than the outcome.

“I’ve got a psychologist, Séan McGonigle, who has worked with us probably for five or six years now since I was very young. It’s always kind of something that I am trying to work at and improve on.

“Once you get to a certain level it’s a massive part of the game and you’re still working on your swing, tweaks on that, your putt analysis, your short game but it’s just having an overall approach to trying to improve every aspect of your game by 1% a day.”

And while the professional ranks loom large on the horizon, Keeling who doesn’t turn 18 until October, can look forward to collegiate golf in the States after another busy summer at home in Ireland.

“When I went on my visit it kind of shocked me how good the whole set up was,” said Keeling.

“The facilities, it’s basically just set up for success and you’ve got everything given to you so it’s just up to you then how much you want it and how far you want to get.”

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