Damien Fleming sits atop the Irish Open Roll of Honour
Nobody boasts a better record in the Irish Open than Damien Fleming. The Kilarney native spoke to John Manning (FIPPA webmaster) after his latest win at Seapoint in the event, in which he has now triumphed three times and been runner-up once.
John Manning (JM): Congratulations on your fantastic win at Seapoint. You must be delighted to now stand alone at the top of the Irish International Pitch and Putt Open Roll of Honour?
Damien Fleming (DF):Thanks John. Yeah it is a tournament that I seem to have done well in, so it is nice to be top of that list. With some of the young talent coming through, I imagine I will be eventually knocked off the perch, so I will enjoy it while I am there, and who knows I might sneak another one.
JM: How excited were you to battle with a Pitch and Putt legend, Ray Murphy, down the stretch?
DF: Ray and I would be good friends, so it is often strange when we do battle. He is the greatest of all time, and it’s amazing to see the appetite he still has to win. I always like to test myself against the best, so there is no greater battle than when you go head to head with Ray, I was lucky to come out the right side of this one, although he did beat me easily the previous week in Rocklodge. I am sure we have plenty more battles ahead. I keep telling him that if I qualify for the matchplay next year that we will meet in the first round, so that might be the next one.
JM: That first round of 43 gave you a superb platform on which to build your success?
DF: Yeah, that certainly was a great help. I putted great that round, everything went in. It sounds silly but I actually pitched better in the next two rounds but the putter was red hot in that first round. It was needed though, as scoring had been very good in first two sessions so knew I needed to start quick. Also we had all known Sunday was gonna be tougher conditions so really was important to build a score the first day.
JM: Seapoint is an iconic venue but it’s far from an easy course. To what do you attribute the glut of low scores at the Irish Open?
DF: I think most players have developed very adaptable games, and can quickly adapt to all conditions. You also have to compliment Pat Greene and his crew, as the greens were a dream to putt on, and good greens will always help scoring. It’s definitely not an easy course though, and can imagine it plays very different on each occasion.
JM: Over a month has gone by since your outstanding victory at Glenville in the National Gent’s Strokeplay championship. How do you reflect on that day now with the benefit of some time for the achievement to sink in?
DF: That was a very emotional day John, and at the time I was probably a little overwhelmed by the whole thing. It has been great to be looking at the cup and all the great names that are on it, knowing that I have joined them. It will probably be after the inter county before I really reflect on the win, but I know that it has definitely fulfilled an ambition of mine, and also has made me hungrier to win more. On the day I missed my wife and mother in law as they would normally be there, but at least the brother (James) got to finally see me win one, he was a long time watching me get close.
JM: Of course, just before that memorable day at Glenville, you and your wife celebrated a momentous event with an addition to your family. That must bring you great joy?
DF: Great joy and a serious lack of a sleep!! Yeah, Grace is nearly 8 weeks now, and doing great, less time for playing but that seems to be working out ok so far. Three girls now and all bundles of joy. They ain’t lovers of the game yet, but I might convince them. In truth having three children has probably made me appreciate the time I have to play, and this has benefitted me in allowing me to be more focused when I do get to play. I am also a lot more relaxed when I am playing as you realise very quickly what’s most important in life.
JM: Largely due to quirks in timing, you haven’t yet represented Ireland in international team competition. How much of an ambition is it to emulate fellow Kerrymen like Derry McCarthy, Jonathon Goodall, Conor McCarthy and Cillian Courtney and play for Ireland?
DF: This old chestnut! Conor gives me fierce stick about this. Obviously I would love to play for Ireland, but haven’t been lucky enough to do so as of yet. As a juvenile I remember Derry going to Australia and thinking I would love to do that some day, and it was probably a huge drive to practice and improve. Hopefully I stay high enough in the rankings to get into the trials and with a bit of luck I will make it eventually. I won’t dwell on it too much though, if it happens, great but if not that’s ok too, Conor needs something to keep him going, so we will let him have it!
I am delighted for Cillian on a separate note, he is a serious talent and it is great to see him being recognised. I hope he keeps at it, and with the talent we have in the club I have no doubt it won’t be the last time we have a juvenile playing for Ireland. It is definitely a motivator to keep practicing when you see the standard that the juveniles in Kerry are currently setting.