A new series from Golf Ireland bringing you the stories from some of the most interesting golfers and personalities across golf in Ireland.

Words by Darragh Small 

Standing over her three-foot putt with silverware on the line, a profound sense of calm kept her mind from overthinking it.

It can be one of the most difficult shots in golf but Mary Doyle's exuberance of youth saw her step forward on Hole 17 at Blackbush and tap in to take home the Leinster Girls’ Championship.

That win over Sinéad Sexton provided something tangible, a feeling of euphoria and the confidence that she could compete with the very best and come out on top. She was hooked.

“It was actually a two-putt. We were both on the green and I was dormie two-up,” said Doyle.

“She landed up to like a foot so I gave her that putt. I had about a three-foot putt to get in. I actually didn’t think it was that hard at that time. It was a short putt in my mind.”

The 26-year-old Laois native is a natural born competitor, growing up with just one sibling where they both battled it out in the sports that they played. And it was golf that would eventually take centre stage in her mind.

Doyle grew up on the outskirts of Portlaoise and she went on to play Gaelic football for her county and basketball for her province.

Starting golf at 12-years-old

However, after first picking up a golf club when she was 12 it was her basketball influence and primary school teacher, Mary Phelan, that first floated the idea that Doyle should focus on getting a handicap.

Mary Culliton was another huge mentor that helped her along the way but even in her early days playing golf in Portlaoise, there were other external factors that kept driving her forward.

“I played all the other sports and my parents were like give golf a go as well,” said Doyle.

“I started from there and I won a competition early on so that spurred me on to keep going and get a lower handicap. 

“My brother started at the same time as I did. We would have always competed together. He got down to five or six, I think that was his lowest. My school teacher, who ran the basketball team, she pushed me to get a handicap.

“The women in the Heath Golf Club were very good they brought me out and made sure I entered some of the regional competitions and stuff too. 

“But when I was younger there wasn’t many girls playing. I used to play in the Monday competitions in Portlaoise Golf Club first. It was all boys so I was the only girl. I was grand going along with my brother and I used to play with him in the same competition or I used to just play against the other boys in the club.

“That is where I got the competitive streak. It was all what did you score or hit there. It was just trying to get the lowest score possible, there wasn’t any niceties. It was compete, compete, compete.

“I felt a bit awkward at the start but my parents helped me gain the perspective that I was going to improve. I was able to push on by competing with the boys and in fairness some of them were really encouraging.

“I remember one day I was going to walk in off the course because I had such a bad day. But one of the lads was like we’re nearly finished, just keep going, just play the last few holes. They were really encouraging in that environment so that kept me going as well.”

A dream to become a Tour professional

And within a few years, Doyle was starring at Blackbush where she found her niche, golf was her life going forward and everything centred around improving her game and making a career out of it.

She pursued a life in golf media with Irish Golfer Magazine while she finished her studies in Media and Anthropology at Maynooth University. But the dream had been to become a Tour professional.

“I wanted to be a Tour pro. I wanted to play competitively on the LPGA Tour or LET. And then once I started travelling by myself I didn’t like the lifestyle for it,” said Doyle.

“I went to college in Maynooth. I did Media and I worked for the Irish Golfer Magazine. I was gearing up for a career in golf media really. Then once the opportunity came up here I took it then.”

After turning professional in October 2019, Doyle joined up with the Golf Ireland Academy as a PGA Trainee, based at the Maynooth venue. A few years down the road and she is one of the most promising PGA professionals in Ireland.

And although the former Ireland international and Irish Women’s Close Champion is still playing competitively – her next big event is in Athlone next month when she tees it up in Glasson – she is determined to get more women playing the game.

The first Golf Ireland Chip & Chat

Yesterday evening she was one of the coaches on hand to help with the inaugural staging of Chip & Chat, Golf Ireland’s Women’s Social Golf Community.

Almost 50 golfers of all ages and abilities turned out at Leopardstown Driving Range to play golf and socialise. And there are three more dates pencilled in for later this year at Leopardstown (25 July), Lunar Golf Experience (26 October) and K Golf World (30 November).

“It’s a really relaxed social environment to build a female community,” said Doyle.

“We did some one-on-one lessons, some beginner tutorials just to show how to grip the club and stand and a basic swing shape. Going to and from different areas, either going from beginner groups or intermediate players and just helping them out with any issues they had. 

“It's huge in particular for women. It’s nice to make friends and have the community. The junior girls we have like to join in a group and come with their friends.

“It’s that ability to chat outside of school or work. Doing something together which is really important and it makes it really fun then as well.”

To find out more about the great work being done at clubs in Ireland - visit the Golf Ireland website.

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