Seamus Power Brings His Heart Back to Ireland

Seamus Power, the golfer from Ireland, was on a plane across the Atlantic when the thought occurred to him.

“Where am I going?” Power wondered when he took that trip at age 19. “I didn’t have a telephone. I didn’t have many dollars. If I land over here, and if something as simple as my coach isn’t at the airport to pick me up, I have no idea what I’m going to do.”

“Over here” was Johnson City, Tenn., the home of East Tennessee State University, where Power was going in the summer of 2006 to play golf.

He had heard good things about the place but had yet to see it for himself. Thankfully, Fred Warren, his coach, was, indeed, at the airport, and Power has been going in the right direction ever since.

And now, in his third year as a member of the PGA Tour, he is going home.

Power, 32, will be playing in this week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at a links course he knows well, the highly regarded Lahinch Golf Club. He visits his native land several times a year, but this will be the first time he has played in the event since 2013.

“I can’t wait,” said Power, who grew up in County Waterford. “If I play well, I could really have a good week and get a bit of excitement going.”

Power began to lobby for a sponsor’s invitation as soon as he found out that Paul McGinley would host the event. McGinley was Power’s captain when he was a member of the Irish team at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro; he finished in a tie for 15th.

“We’ve kept in touch ever since,” Power said. “I didn’t hesitate to reach out.”

Power has certainly received his share of good breaks throughout his career. One of them was how he ended up attending East Tennessee State.

Warren, who had signed Rory McIlroy to a letter of intent in 2004 — he would turn pro instead — was at the 2005 European Boys’ Team Championship at Monticello Golf Club in Italy to recruit players when he watched Power play.

“He had an American-style game,” Warren said, “a long hitter, aggressive, trying to make birdies. I was real impressed with him.”

Warren would offer Power a partial scholarship with a caveat: He would probably have to wait a year.

No problem. Power had written letters to other colleges in the United States, but did not receive encouraging responses. In fact, if it had not been for the interest from East Tennessee State, he would have followed through on another plan: Take an accounting course at a university in Ireland.

He became fond of Johnson City and then Charlotte, N.C., where he lives today.

“I spend most of my time in the U.S. in the South,” Power said. “It’s a great place. The people are very welcoming. They make you feel right at home.”

As for his life between the ropes in Tennessee, although he won five events, including the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship twice, Power did not become a star. Not until his senior year did he decide that he would turn pro. His last semester of college golf was his best.

“I knew it was very expensive to get started,” said Power, who was helped out financially by members of his club in Waterford. “It wasn’t a no-brainer decision for me like maybe it would be for some of the big guys.”

From then on, his progress, if not spectacular, has been steady.

He began on the minitours, before moving on to the Tour, where he became the first Irish player to win an event. Since earning his card for the PGA Tour in 2016, Power has made 76 starts, with five top-10 finishes.

Two of the tops 10s have come in 2019, on back-to-back weeks: a tie for sixth at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, S.C., and a tie for fifth in a team competition at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Before Hilton Head, he had missed the cut in 11 of his last 15 appearances.

Power credits much of his success this year to the work that he has put in with the instructor Justin Parsons, whom he met in February during the tour’s stop in the Los Angeles area.

Parsons is Irish, as well, which makes a difference.

“He probably knows how to relate to me more than other guys,” Power said. “The information, I feel, is coming across a little clearer to me.”

Parsons said Power had a lot of potential.

“He can be a top-50 player in the world,” said Parsons, who teaches at Sea Island Golf Club in Georgia. “He hits the golf ball well over 300 yards in the air. Not only that, he’s an excellent putter with a fabulous short game.”

No doubt Power, ranked No. 303, will need to be in excellent form to contend this week. The field includes Louis Oosthuizen, Tommy Fleetwood, Ian Poulter, Jon Rahm and Matt Wallace.

In addition, there is a contingent of Irish players, including the three-time major champion Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Paul Dunne, and Shane Lowry, as well as Cormac Sharvin and Robin Dawson, who, like Power, received invitations.

Power still has a chance to earn a spot in the British Open this month at Royal Portrush Golf Club, the first time the Open has been played in Northern Ireland since 1951.

As much as Power likes living in the United States, there is no place like home.

“My heart is always going to be in Ireland,” he said.

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