The Leeside legends series: Golf was a true Coughlan for Claire

The Leeside legends series: Golf was a true Coughlan for Claire
Ireland's Claire Coughlan watches her approach at the 14th green during the Ladies British Amateur Open at Littlestone in 2005. Picture: SPORTSFILE

AS one of Cork’s finest golfer proves, the best things often come in small packages, as Claire Coughlan has shown her class in the country’s golf courses for over 27 years.

It is hard to believe the class of Claire who is still only 40 given all that she has achieved to date.

Claire lived next to the Cork Golf Club so it was little wonder that in 1990 she began playing golf at her local club at the age of 10 mainly due to a lot of encouragement from her grandfather Mick Twohig.

“My house was only 100 metres from the first tee and my grandfather was stone mad on golf and for many years he caddied for me and was the inspiration to me since I began playing,” said Claire.

By the time Claire had reached the age of 14 she had already been crowned U16 Irish champion and two years later landed the Munster championship.

In 1997 Coughlan produced another majestic display to win the Midlands U18 championship.

It wasn’t long before the Cork girl's talent caught the eye of the National media and in 1998 she was awarded the Irish Junior golfer of the year.

A year later was another historic one for Coughlan as she won four major championships which included the Lancome Irish Ladies Close championship.

“I also won the Lahinch Irish open but my win in the Irish Scratch Cup was something special, as over the year when I won championships, I always tended to treasure the moment as there is always more downs than ups in all sports.”

It is always special to win the local Scratch Cup and Claire was on the winner’s rostrum in 2000 as was ever-present on Munster and Irish teams for many years.

There was disappointment in 2000 when she lost out in the Irish National Strokeplay championship but a year later she won the Munster championship despite the national jinx continuing in the same year when runner up in Close championship.

In 2002 despite losing some of her form, she retained her Munster championship title and another dazzling performance helped her province win the Interprovincial title at Mount Wolseley near Carlow.

“It was the first time I played on a team that won something and that was a great feeling,” she said.

The will to win coupled with her unbelievable skill has always been the hallmark of Claire’s game but in her own words it was never easy remaining a top player in this country.

“Golf is no different to any other sport as you need to very dedicated with your preparation to compete with the best. I have had a few seconds in my time but sometimes it is not easy to make that final step as Padraig Harrington found out on a few occasions.”

At the beginning of 2003 Coughlan once again showed great form with Munster in the Interprovincial championship and took silver medals in the Cork and Lahinch Scratch Cups.

A trip to the Helen Holm Scottish championship saw Claire produce a good display as she finished a credible fifth against the best players in Britain and Ireland.

After coming through the ranks Claire moved into the Irish Senior Ladies team but after playing four years with them she was omitted in 2002.

After showing some dazzling form Claire was named as one of six new caps on the 2004 British and Ireland Curtis Cup team to face the United States at Forby Golf club England.

Although on the losing side Coughlan won all her three games and she was the sole player of that side to make the 2006 team that lost 11.5 to 6.5 at Oregon.

There is little doubt the outstanding skills of Claire Coughlan should be recognised and in a career that took her to the top level of the sport she will be remembered for her undoubted class both on and off the golf course.

FACTFILE: 

Claire Coughlan was encouraged by her grandfather Mick Twohig to begin playing golf at the age of 10.

Coughlan won her first title in 1994 when she was crowned National U16 champion.

One of the best wins for Coughlan in the early years of her career was defeating Eileen Rose Power in the Irish Ladies Close final.

Her family home at Little Island is only 100 metres away from the first tee at the club.

Claire became a professional golfer in 2007 before been reinstated to the Amateur ranks.

She captained the Irish and Great Britain Junior Vagliano team in 2014 that played a Continent of Europe side at Malone Golf club in Belfast.

Claire is married to fellow golfer David Ryan and they have three sons.

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