Dubai: Irish professional Jamie McConnell lays a tremendous importance on the role of coaches and feels a little help and right direction from them will go a long way in helping the youngsters follow their dreams. McConnell, who is making a name for himself as Director of Instruction at the CH3 Performance Golf Academy at The Els Club in Dubai, talks about the path that he has taken to his current position and his role in guiding the youngsters to reach peak performance levels during an exclusive interview with Gulf News. Excerpts…
Welcome Jamie, how long have you been in Dubai?
I have been in Dubai for almost 10 years. I still remember my first lesson was with a young lad called Toby Bishop. It is so rewarding to see that Toby in the next few weeks will start a golf scholarship at Florida University. I love telling people this story and it just shows how youngsters can follow their dreams, with a little help and direction from us golf coaches.
Tell us about your career history in golf to date?
I always liked playing golf growing up near Dublin, Ireland, and got to a scratch handicap. At 18 years of age I decided to turn Pro and play the EuroPro Tour. I was not balancing my financials after a couple of years. I then decided to take my PGA Pro qualifications, and still played in a few local PGA events, and worked for Carr Golf, a golf management company, who were brilliant with me. I had jobs that were, perhaps, beyond my skill set at the time, like running golf clubs and driving ranges. However, it gave me huge experience in the wider golf industry. Then aged 23, I established my own business in Ireland: The Trackman Roadshow. There were only four or five Trackman units in Ireland at the time, and these were mainly in the hands of club fitters. My business model was to loan out my Trackman to Golf Pros for a day. I travelled everywhere and it was hugely successful, but was it what I wanted to do?
So how did you connect with Dubai?
I was not looking for a job and I randomly received a call from Justin Parsons (JP) from the Butch Harmon Academy at The Els Club, Dubai. He just had two Teaching Pros leave the facility and had heard about me through a couple of connections, including Martin Duff, then at Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club. I accepted the job not knowing the role, the financial package or anything about it. It was a leap of faith and one that I do not regret.
Tell us about your connections with the Harmon family over the years?
I was invited as a young amateur teenager, to play in Butch’s tournament in Ireland, the Red Bull Master Class where 35 kids were invited to attend a Harmon golf workshop. All four Harmon brothers, Butch, Dick, Billy and Craig, came over to host the event, gave us lessons and there was a two-day tournament at the end of the week at Druids Heath that I won. I have always admired and followed Butch Harmon and Claude Harmon since I was young.
Tell us how you became the Director of Instruction at the CH3 Performance Golf Academy?
After five years here and with JP leaving, it coincided with the Butch Harmon Academy transitioning to Claude Harmon with CH3. JP and Claude are my two biggest influences in my career.
How did the transition to CH3 go?
There was a hectic two months of work. There is so much more to do than anyone realises when rebranding: IT, business cards, website etc. We even painted the Academy building ourselves. Under the umbrella of The Els Club and Dubai Sports City with Troon Golf support, we are essentially running an independent business unit. Thank you’s must go to all the GM’s at The Els Club for their support: Karl Whitehead, Andrea Faldella and now Tom Rourke.
Tell us who you have attracted to CH3, both Pros and amateurs from Dubai, UAE and the region?
I now coach a few Tour Pros: Kristyna Napoleaova of the Czech Republic and Moroccan Maha Haddioui on the Ladies European Tour (LET). I do travel to the occasional tournament, but try and double up on my players to manage my time. We coach a number of UAE Nationals as individuals and are assisting the UAE Team in their Eisenhower Trophy tournament preparation for France later this month with weekly training sessions.
We also coach the Saudi National Team: Saud Alsharif and Faisal Salhab as well as Saudi Pro Othman Almulla. Saud and Faisal are with us now before they go to play in Singapore next week on the Asian Tour. Our facility at The Els Club is a great location for pros to winter and the likes of Shiv Kapur, Jeev Milkha Singh, Nicolas Colsaerts and Adrian Meronk are regular visitors along with Tommy Fleetwood, Shane Lowry and many others on all the world’s golf Tours. However, our core business is still our members at The Els Club, that must never be forgotten.