I wear the president’s blazer with real pride

She managed the most hallowed turf of golfers, Mount Juliet, a job which saw her travel the world and meet some of the world’s greatest golfers.
I wear the president’s blazer with real pride
Kate MacCann, President Douglas Golf, at Douglas Golf Club, Cork.Picture: Jim Coughlan.

KATE MacCann is well used to landing the perfect gig and the dream job.

“When I got the job of Director of Golf at Mount Juliet in 1991, I had thought at first that I might be considered too young,” says the former Irish International.

“I was the first woman to hold such a post. Gender didn’t even enter my head when I was interviewed for the position.”

Gender didn’t enter Kate’s head either when she was given the huge honour of becoming the first female president of Douglas Golf Club — since its foundation in 1909.

What did she have to do to land the esteemed position of club president?

“Nothing!” says Kate, laughing.

But she must be a team player?

“That is true,” says Kate, mum to Daniel, aged 13, and John, aged 11.

“If you are a golfer, you make great connections and great friends through the sport. When I came to Cork in 2000, I looked up one of my Irish International team mates, Evanne Higgins. She was a member of Douglas Golf Club, and I asked her if I could join.”

The rest is history.

Was Kate, from Co. Meath, always a golfer?

“My dad and my mum were both keen golfers,” says Kate, who is a scratch golfer.

“I was always sporty and I loved the outdoors. I grew up on a farm. Dad taught me to play golf. He had great patience and he taught myself and my three brothers with wooden clubs and a wooden putter. I think I inherited my golf genes from dad.”

Is Kate’s husband, John, a golf enthusiast?

“After we got married, John caddied for me,” she says.

Kate MacCann, President Douglas Golf, at Douglas Golf Club, Cork.Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Kate MacCann, President Douglas Golf, at Douglas Golf Club, Cork.Picture: Jim Coughlan.

So he’s not a golf widower?

“No,” says Kate, smiling. “He’s into rugby.”

Kate puts her success on the green down to single-mindedness and a steely competitive edge.

“I was always very competitive,” she says. “I wanted to get better and better. On the golf course it is just you and the ball. You forget about everything else. It is like being in a bubble.”

Kate’s unwavering competitiveness and her natural skill paid off. She played at provincial level for Leinster at the ages of 12, 13 and 14 and at the International European Championships for three years, under 21, representing Ireland in Sweden, Holland and Spain.

“And then I landed my dream job,” says Kate. “It was serendipity. After my Leaving Cert, I studied accounting and I went to work for Price Waterhouse. I was good at maths. I had a business brain.”

But accounting wasn’t her first love.

“Really, I drifted into accounting.”

When an opportunity arose at the golf mecca, Mount Juliet, in Co. Kilkenny, to set up and design the golf course there, Kate knew she had found her true calling.

“The job, Director of Golf, didn’t exist,” she says. “It was the first job of its kind. The club wanted to attract business and membership from all over the world. I was in my 20s and this was a male-orientated world. When Tim Mahony, of Toyota Ireland and the owner of the Mount Juliet Hotel, called me and told me that I had got the job; I was thrilled.”

Kate MacCann with Padraig Harrington with his British open trophy
Kate MacCann with Padraig Harrington with his British open trophy

How did Kate swing the job of a lifetime?

“Tim said I was a breath of fresh air,” she says. “He knew that I was a golf enthusiast and that I had a business brain to deal with the huge logistics to manage the job of director well.”

Kate worked hard at the job and she worked hard at lowering her golf handicap.

“I joined Kilkenny Golf Club and with a lot of practice, I became a scratch player,” she says.”

A scratch golfer plays to a course handicap of zero on any and all rated golf courses.

Kate’s feet hardly touched the ground.

“As Director of Golf at Mount Juliet, I travelled all over the world, to the USA, Europe and South Africa, selling Mount Juliet to corporate clients,” says Kate.

“It was very high end and I got to meet the best players in the game of golf. Thousands of businessmen from overseas flew in to Mount Juliet every day. It was phenomenal.”

Who made an impression on the young Kate?

“Tom Watson was a true gentleman and fantastic to deal with. Nick Faldo was warm and pleasant. Both Seve Ballesteros and José María Olazábal played at Mount Juliet. Both were brilliant. I met Jack Nicklaus on the Tarmac when he landed by helicopter from his private jet. We had three days touring, we went to the races and to Langton’s in Kilkenny. We had a ball!”

It must have been slightly surreal mingling with the famous golf icons?

“Yes,” say Kate. “Here I was, a newly qualified accountant, meeting and greeting the most famous golfers in the whole world. Sometimes I thought I was winging it!”

Was Seve, the charismatic Spanish golfer, who passed away in 2011, as handsome in real life?

“Absolutely,” says Kate. “He was gorgeous and charming too. I was in his house in Pedrena, Spain in 1993, and I met his wife. Mount Juliet sponsored Padraig Harrington, who spent many enjoyable corporate days with our clients at the club.”

The dream job led to meeting real-life heroes.

“And I got to play Augusta National too,” says Kate. “That is every golfer’s dream. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.”

Kate worked hard.

“The logistics were huge in marketing Mount Juliet at home and abroad,” says Kate. “It hosted three Irish Opens and two World Championships, with 30,000 people arriving every day. It was hard work and the hours were very long.”

Kate MacCann
Kate MacCann

It must have been glamorous though, rubbing shoulders with the cream of the world’s best-known golfers?

“It was,” says Kate. “When I moved to Cork, I worked at Mount Juliet’s sister club, Fota Island, which is a fabulous venue too.”

Life as a wife and mother was more grounded, a different world from the merry-go- round of corporate entertaining.

“But you know, none of it was real-life,” says Kate, recalling the days where she managed the most hallowed turf of golfers, travelling to exotic locations and playing the game with the greats.

“I’ve been there, done that,” says Kate. “It was a fabulous job. I love being mum to my two boys, Daniel and John, enjoying all the things they are into. That’s what makes me happy.”

Are Daniel and John golfers?

“They play every sport known to man!” says Kate.

Her track record, her involvement and her love for the game of golf led to her being named President of Douglas Golf Club for 2018.

“John Boylan, the previous president of the club, announced me in October, 2016,” she says.

Was she surprised?

“Surprised and delighted,” she says. “I was blown away, completely blind-sided! And of course, I couldn’t say no! There is a lovely respect for the office.”

Kate has a huge affinity with her home club.

“Douglas Golf Club is vibrant,” she says. “We welcomed 50 new members this year to join our 800 female members and 400 male members. The evening we held for new prospective members was very well attended. Everyone enjoyed it.”

There was a notion once that you had to be well-heeled to play golf?

“That isn’t the case anymore,” says Kate. “It has evolved in recent years. If you play golf, the entrance fee, €7,000 to join, and €1,000 annually, is money well spent.

“Douglas Golf Club, with its amenities, the inclusive social element and the camaraderie, is a welcoming environment for everyone. The clubhouse here is a great meeting place.

“Having a golf connection opens so many doors just because you play the game. There was a fall-off of members during the recession. Now things are picking up well again.”

So what does Kate hope to achieve as president?

“I’d like to see men and women golfers play more frequently together,” says Kate, who is charged with providing leadership and direction to her committee.

There are perks with this job too.

“It is seriously nice to have your own car space,” says Kate, smiling.

“I wear the President’s blazer with pride.”

Her men-folk were suitably impressed when Kate took part in the ceremonial drive-in to herald her new role as President of Douglas Golf Club.

“It was me and the two captains,” she says. “The drive-in, a ritual to start the day, was more nerve-wracking than any competitive match I’ve played in.

“I was hoping just to hit the ball far away. All eyes were on me!”

The fans turned out for the auspicious occasion.

“John, my son said; ‘Mum, they are all looking at you!’”

Has Kate, who has achieved so much through the game of golf, ever achieved a hole-in-one?

“Yes. I’ve got a hole-in-one three times. I practice a lot still, and I play every Tuesday morning. It is funny, but golf and snooker are the only sports involving a stationary ball.”

How does it feel to be a ‘first lady’?

“Pretty good,” says Kate.

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