John Coyle, the late golf professional who helped huge numbers of kids in Limerick to take up the game, has been given a posthumous honour at the US Open in Pennsylvania this week.
The former Adare Manor golf pro, who passed away suddenly at the age of 48 in China in December after a short illness, was nominated for the RBS Outstanding International Contributor of the Year Award 2013 for his work with the First Tee Ireland programme in Rathbane Golf Club.
John’s wife of 17 years, Fiona, collected the award at a ceremony in Pennsylvania this Wednesday night, where the US Open golf tournament is being held this week.
Ms Coyle, a beauty and body therapist in the Dunraven Arms Hotel, said it was “an honour” to collect the award on her late husband’s behalf.
“I am delighted to be able to go over and receive it - it will be hard, but it is a recognition of all his work. He was a very good teacher,” said Fiona before she left this week.
“For some reason I had a feeling he would win and he did. It will be an honour and I am delighted to be able to bring the award back to Limerick, for Limerick to be recognised,” added Fiona, who met John through golf nearly 20 years ago.
Coyle, who was originally from Dublin and turned professional in 1987, also worked as pro in Nenagh Golf Club and ran a successful golf shop on Catherine Street for nearly ten years, up until 2006.
The golfer left behind two kids - Lucy and Jack, aged 5 and 9 respectively. The family lived first in Killaloe and later in Croagh.
He left for China to find work nearly 18 months before he died. Tributes were paid after his death by Irish Ryder Cup star Christy O’Connor Jr and comedian Brendan Grace, with whom Coyle raised thousands of euro for the First Tee programme.
Fiona said it would be “poignant” to collect the award.
“It (his death) was an awful shock. It will be poignant and it is quite an honour,” she said. “It is great for his memory and also for the children to remember it when they are older.”
Coyle, who was instrumental in bringing Niall Quinn’s Sunderland to Limerick for a fundraiser for the Shane Geoghegan Trust, was well known to have a close rapport with the kids he taught in Rathbane.
“He was a very good teacher and had a great rapport with them. Someone told me recently that most of those guys still go to play golf,” said Fiona.
In his nominating letter, John Warren of First Tee Ireland said Coyle “had a huge impact on our participant numbers both locally as a First Tee coach in Limerick and nationally through his fundraising efforts on our behalf”.
“He joined our ranks in early 2006 and the face of our programme changed in Limerick forever,” wrote Mr Warren.
“He had a way with children and took easily to our teachings. He was full of ideas, always creating new games and activities for his participants.
“John recognised the needs of the children in the areas around Rathbane golf course and tried to offer as much variety as his could to his participants. In all cases his focus was always on children who needed a helping hand,” he added.
RBS said the award was for going “above and beyond the call of duty”.