In his weekly Limerick Leader column Ivan Morris meets Ghana’s new director of golf
A young, Limerick man who grew up in Ballinacurra and learned his golf at Limerick Golf Club is moving to Ghana this month as the African country’s first, National Director for Golf. It’s been an interesting journey for Tom Kennedy that is bound to become more so!
IM – Until recently, I’m sure you never imagined yourself as Director of Golf for Ghana?
Tom Kennedy – Absolutely but it’s a fantastic opportunity and something I could not turn down.
IM – How did you hear about the job?
TK – Brian Shaw, Head Professional at Doonbeg, gave me the heads up. It was good of him to think that I might be of the right calibre. Things came together very quickly after that.
IM - Working one’s way from the ground up certainly applies to you, Tom. Tell me about your career so far?
TK – I began playing golf as a schoolboy at Ballyclough with the likes of Paul O’Connell, David Morris, Pat & Philip Collier and Adrian & Mark Feane. To earn holiday pocket money, some of us caddied at Adare. Gradually, I began helping out in other roles - Starter, Outdoor Operations and Caddie Master. I spent six, happy years working there. In 2002, I joined the Golf Services Team at Old Head. That was when I began to think about golf as a career. I graduated to golf management, helping to develop niche companies within the golf industry, specializing in marketing as well as financial and strategic management.
I managed Grange Castle Golf Club in Dublin while also being Business Development Manager at mygolfsociety.ie. Being an avid golfer gave me the insight to try to make pay and play golfers feel as though they are ‘fully-fledged.’ In my latest post, I enjoyed 14 fantastic months at Mount Juliet. I feel very privileged to have worked at such a terrific facility.
IM - As Director of Golf for Ghana, what exactly will be your role?
TK – I’ll be helping the 14 Golf Clubs already in existence to attract more golfers and developing the game from grass roots to international recognition. I’ll be helping them to generate income and overseeing investments back into the game to upgrade facilities, establish academies and enhance the quality of the courses. Attracting more Ghanaian youngsters to play golf will be one of my biggest aims. Basically, I’ll be training Ghanaians to become self-sufficient in the golf business.
IM – As somebody who depends on golf for his livelihood what, in your opinion, would make golf a better game?
TK – That’s a tough question! Lowering costs is not necessarily the complete answer. Too low fees results in lower quality golf courses that are not properly maintained. People accept that there is a cost involved. I want to help to make golf in Ghana as accessible as possible. Making the pace of play quicker also needs to be looked at. 5-hour rounds only drive players away. People cannot afford to invest that amount of time in any game. 5-hours on the course can easily translate into 8-hours away from home or work – that’s too much!
IM – Does Ghana expect to have golf representation at the Rio Olympics in 2016?
TK – Don’t know how realistic that might be yet but I’m sure it’s the aim. The Board I work for is made up of The Royal & Ancient Golf Club; Paul McGinley Golf Design; Tullow Oil and the Ghana Golf Association. The first target is for a Ghanaian play in the Amateur Championship; then have somebody compete in The Open Championship. Lofty goals, you will agree, but you must aim high!
IM – Will you be responsible for promoting youth golf?
TK – Absolutely! It’s vital to start playing golf at a young age. Right from the beginning, I’ll be developing grass roots golf with all of my energy and enthusiasm by introducing Junior Golf Programmes at all of the Golf Clubs. I understand that there is a large, secondary school overlooking the golf course at Achimota GC, where I will be based – no better place to begin prospecting for future golf talent than right there! Achimota is regarded as Ghana’s best course. There’s a strong Irish presence and influence due to Tullow Oil having an operation close by.
IM – Do you know much about the game of golf in Ghana?
TK - In the early 1920s, Colonial administrators (mostly British) constructed a 9-Hole Golf course in Accra. Within a decade the game had spread to Christiansborg, Secondi, Takoradi, Winneba, Kumasi and Achimota. Ghana has had its own Open Amateur Championship since 1927. I will be working closely with the GHANA GOLF ASSOCIATION, which was formed in the 1970’s. GGA’s mandate is to promote the game at Amateur and Professional levels for men and women, while regulating all matters pertaining to the rules in accordance with The R&A. I’ll be overseeing the running of tournaments and helping the game to grow in a healthy and prosperous fashion that respects the spirit of the game as it is traditionally played. I begin my tenure in early May and I’m very much looking forward to it!