Wake Forest golf coach Jerry Haas once quipped that you never know what is going to happen with Mark Power, one of the prodigious talents that have come through their system in recent years, writes Darragh Small.
And it perfectly encapsulated his Saturday singles Walker Cup tie with David Ford, 3 down leaving the 11thgreen, it looked like disaster, however the Kilkenny man took the home fans on a rollercoaster over the closing stretch. He won that match on 18 and ended that chapter as the leading GB&I competitor, only the World amateur No 1, Gordon Sargent, bettered his record that week.
The month that followed has been extraordinary, Power bided his time to enter the professional ranks but he has already shown his brimming potential just four weeks into his exciting journey.
“I don’t want to say life-changing but a lot of doors have opened for me. It’s been hectic but very enjoyable and finally I’ve had a bit of time process and soak in how special the last month has been.”, says Power.
The 23-year-old wasn’t afforded the same time for reflection after his 1up win against Ben James the next day at St Andrews.
Power was just out of the Walker Cup press conference when he learned that his first tournament as a professional would take place an hour from home. His next port of call was The K Club and the Horizon Irish Open and anyone who wasn’t aware of the Walker Cup veteran at that stage, learned plenty in Straffan that weekend.
“Everything happened very quickly, I didn’t find out I got into the Irish Open until about an hour after the Walker Cup had finished,” said Power.
“We were just trying to process the whole week, there was a lot of emotions for me at least, finishing my amateur career at St Andrews and then I found out I got a call to say that I was into the field at The K Club. So emotions were kind of everywhere but I quickly had to move the attention onto pro life and literally got home to Kilkenny the Monday morning. After basically sleeping all day I went up to The K Club on Tuesday morning and all of a sudden I was preparing for an Irish Open for my first professional event, it was pretty crazy.”
He wasn’t overawed being part of a field which included the likes of Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington.
Indeed, he revelled and opened with a bogey-free 68 with a stunning chip-in eagle at the 18th rubber-stamping his arrival in the pro ranks.
He had arrived, and for a man with Kilkenny roots Power was always destined for this, his parents Eileen Rose and Eddie are both former Irish Close champions.
“I come from a golf family, both mum and dad have won Irish Close championships and played on Irish teams, so I grew up playing a good bit of hurling in school and a little bit with club, but golf was always my main sport,” said Power.
“I played a lot of soccer as well but growing up in Kilkenny, you kind of have to, hurling is everywhere so it’s hard to avoid it. I love playing, it just it didn’t go very well playing golf and trying to play hurling at the same time.
“To be fair we had a really good junior golf set up in Kilkenny, there was a lot of young lads who obviously played hurling and other sports, but they were very good at golf, I suppose the hand-eye coordination helped.
“We all kind of pushed each other on which was a big help, we just had a great crop of lads coming through and we kind of helped push each other on and our interest levels.”
Power was the shining light from that Fred Daly winning Kilkenny side in 2015 that continued to excel all the way through the Golf Ireland ranks and then onto Wake Forest. His excellent formative years led to a first Walker Cup call-up in 2021 and Power didn’t disappoint in a losing GB&I team. He teamed up with fellow Irishman, John Murphy, to win both of his foursomes matches while Power also defeated Davis Thompson in the afternoon singles on Saturday.
A closing loss to Austin Eckroat didn’t tarnish his memory of Seminole, although the competitor within was desperate to taste success somewhere along his Walker Cup journey. Power could have turned professional in the intervening period but he was determined to feature in a dream Walker Cup match at St Andrews and it was almost the perfect swansong.
“This Walker Cup was one of the most memorable weeks I’ve ever had and I suppose it would be quite hard to top playing a Walker Cup at St Andrews,” said Power. “A lot of my friends and family came over, the home support was unbelievable and we just gelled really well as a team, we had a good bunch of Irish lads on the team but we all got on so well. We led all the way until the last afternoon in the singles. It really would have been the cherry on top if we had won.”
It wasn’t to be but the week that followed sharpened the focus on his professional aspirations and a trip to Austria for the first round of gruelling Q School happened fast. Power progressed through and will continue that fight in the coming weeks.
The adrenaline has continued to flow as he joined JMC Management who also have Tom McKibbin and John Murphy on their books. He recently signed with the local Mount Juliet too, as he plots out what his 2024 might look like.
A closing 66 was enough to secure a T44 finish at the rain-delayed Alfred Dunhill Links Championship this week and the signs are bright. But he knows prolonging his amateur career has helped to make this transition as seamless as possible.
“There’s no ideal age to turn pro at, outside of the exceptional couple of guys who are wonder kids, there’s really no rush,” said Power. “You really need to feel you’re ready to do it because getting off to a good start is very important. You can turn pro young and have the mindset of I’ll get the hang of it after a couple of years but the pressure will really pick up. I felt it was really important to wait until I was ready so I could hit the ground running and feel at home right away, you don’t really want to get out there and feel like you have to find your feet for a couple of years.”
“The setup you have through Golf Ireland, getting to play all the elite amateur events you have to be competing at the top level before you turn professional, you’re not going to turn pro and find it. You really need to prove to yourself and have the confidence to know that, alright this is where I belong.”