MUSKERRY'S Fionn Hickey had some major news last week when he announced that he had signed with a US college for next season.
The Leaving Cert student had spent some time looking at options in the US, and announced that he was joining Loyola Marymount College in Los Angeles.
Hickey follows in the footsteps of John Murphy and others, hoping to improve his golf in the NCAA programme.
Fionn’s decision to join the LMU Lions comes after a few months work of research into the US college system and he was delighted to finally announce his decision last week.
“I started looking actively about a year ago but I guess it was always a dream of mine to play and study in America once it was clear that it could be an option,” said Hickey.
“I didn’t know a whole lot about the programmes apart from some internet research when I first started looking.
Like everything else in 2020, covid had an impact on the Hickey’s research, instead of having an opportunity to visit some of the prospects, all of the groundwork from Cork but the teenager is delighted with his decision to choose the west coast college.
“From my first zoom call with Coach D’Amore and Coach McCabe we hit it off straight away and gelled quite quickly, they’re two young coaches with great ideas for their programme.
"The facilities and location and weather is excellent, weather being a big consideration as I want to be playing and practicing all year round.
"The college courses available were excellent and I will have very good education when I am finished.
"I am heading over in January of 2022 and hopefully hit the ground running and become a regular starter on the team but the competition is fierce there already so it will be a challenge but I’m up for it.”
There are four Cork golfers currently enrolled in the US college system, and while John Murphy will be finishing up at the end of this season, Kinsale’s Robbie Walsh will also be starting the journey next year, he also recently announced that he has signed with the University of Tennessee in Chatenooga, starting there in the Autumn.
Mairead Martin, Mark Healy and Sara Byrne are currently in the US and they follow the likes of Peter O’Keeffe, Aaron O’Callaghan and Niall Turner who all did well in the states.
It’s not a bad return, and a great reflection on the junior golf approach in Muskerry.
“I started playing a bit of pitch and putt in Glanmire on Sunday mornings and my father who is a member of Muskerry got me a juvenile membership when I was a 11 and I just fell in the love with the game.”
Like many others, Fionn first benefitted from the impressive juvenile programme and then from the Munster Golf coaching structures as his game developed.
“There is a very strong juvenile club in Muskerry and the older adult members were very accommodating towards younger players.
"I have a good group of friends there particularly the Fred Daly lads because of the success we have had over the last four years.
"We often played two rounds a day during the Summer, putting competitions etc. Peter Fenlon and Fred Twomey looked after us very well, and not forgetting Martin Lehane with all his words of wisdom.”
Fionn’s first big win came in the Munster U15 Close in Kinsale back in 2017 and since then he’s added to the cabinet.
Munster Fred Daly titles were added in 2017 and 2019 and he also won the Boys U17 at New Forest in 2019 on his way to winning the Irish Boys Order of Merit.
He also won U17 titles in Leinster and Ulster and back in 2016 he helped Muskerry to at Jimmy Bruen Shield pennant.
He had a home win in 2018 when he won the Muskerry Senior Scratch Cup and in 2019 he won the East Cork Senior Scratch Cup.
While all the wins and team performances have their own place, Hickey calls out two in particular.
“The last few years have been great to be fair, all fantastic highlights to be honest but if I was pushed to answer I would say representing Ireland in the Boys Home International Tournament in Wales, winning the Boys Order of Merit would be a close second.”
While golf courses and ranges are still closed under the Covid restrictions, last week Golf Ireland announced their 2021 schedule with a provisional starting date set for June.
Hickey is one of several top amateurs that is hoping to hit the ground running once courses re-open.
“It has been a strain so far with the courses closed but I have kept on top of my core work and I’m also running and cycling.
"I have fairly good driving net and cage so that helps me keep the eye in.
"I’m really looking forward to the return of competitive golf in June, I have got physical stronger over the winter and it will be interesting to see that relate to my game on the course.
"Hopefully I will play the West of Ireland and the other three provincial championships, the Munster Strokeplay and Irish Amateur and any more I can fit in.
"It will be fairly intensive to get all these events played.”