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.
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.”
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.”