A Day in the Life: Greenkeeper Pat Fadden


CUTTING EDGE  Pat Fadden with one of his mowers at Westport Golf Club. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

NORMALLY I would start work at 7am, but the week before the Cups and Shields national finals recently it was 5.30am or 6am and we’d work straight through to 3pm.
We get the hole changing and pin positioning out of the way first, before cutting the greens, which needs to be done before the golfers go out, but the longer you can leave that the better, as they grow very fast.
If you cut the greens at 6am, they’ll have a half day’s growth by 6pm, and that could be quite a lot because it’s such a fine cut. We cut them seven days a week. We also double cut the fairways leading up to the championship.
On other weeks, my mornings usually start with mechanical work on all our machinery. We have so much that there’s always something breaking down. Other morning work would include checking the course to see what needs to be done, drainage work, raking bunkers and general repair work.
Westport Golf Course is 270 acres of parkland course, so it’s very growthy compared to a links course. We’ve a team of seven; five full-time and two lads for the summer.
The weather is everything for us. It’s an uphill battle when it’s raining because the course always needs to be cut and maintained. Bad weather means you sometimes have to do jobs twice.
I first started as a greenskeeper in Westport Golf Course in 1974 and have been there since. It took ten years to receive your greenskeeper certificate back then.
The whole job has changed an awful lot now. When we started back then, we were tipping out sand and soil mix on the greens by shovel and trailer. All cutting machines were pedestrian too -  there was no such thing as a ride-on mower!
Back then it took four men over four hours to cut the 18 greens, where as now, one person can do it in less than three. Standards back then were not as high as they are now though.
I’ve seen over the years the standard we’re able to have the course at. It’s all down to money and having a good committee like we have at the moment. They give you what you need in terms of machinery, and when you have the committee and staff pulling together, it makes a huge difference.
I really enjoy the outdoor work. I could never see myself working inside. What you see at 7am on a nice morning in Westport Golf Course is just beautiful scenery; you couldn’t find a nicer place in the world. Mind you, you don’t get an awful lot of beautiful mornings, but when you do it makes up for the bad ones.
I played golf myself for a few years, but I found it hard to go back on the course when you’re finished a hard day’s work. At the time I was playing, I was also working seven days a week so it was hard to find time in the evenings and weekends. I always enjoyed it and meant to go back, but I’m also doing a bit of farming and landscaping and I don’t have much time other than that.
One of my main hobbies is playing music and I have done it in the pubs all my life. Myself and a friend, Mick McLoughlin, used to do it together but not anymore. I play the banjo and guitar and it was all session stuff in the pubs.
It was very enjoyable and I loved it, but we always said that if it ever became work then we would pack it up, and in the end it did, because the atmosphere in the pubs changed through the years.
One of the more satisfying parts of my job is when you get nice comments about the course from complete strangers. They might come up to you, tourists, and tell you that they’ve played such and such a course recently, some of which would be Irish Open courses, and you might hear that they think Westport is actually better.
There was a great feeling in the club when Westport won the Junior Cup recently. It very easily could happen that a club was hosting the tournament and might not have a team in it, so to win it in your home course meant a lot.
Gar Golden [who passed away on September 20] was heavily involved in the club for years and I dealt with him a lot. He was gentleman to deal with at all times and no doubt he would have loved to have been part of it.

In conversation with Ger Flanagan

Name: Pat Fadden
From: Carrowholly, Westport
Occupation: Head Greenskeeper at Westport Golf Club

Quickfire questions

Tell me something about yourself we don’t know?
I love fishing. I have a boat and I like to bring it out on Clew Bay. Unfortunately I don’t get enough time to do as much as I would like.

Favourite place in the world?
Probably Westport. I’ve been in a lot of places and they’re lovely to visit, but overall, I don’t think you will improve on Westport.

What do you miss most about being a child?
I had a good childhood. I can’t say I particularly miss anything, apart from the way of life and the pace of it. It was a lot easier and more relaxing when times were slower, but now, the more technology that comes in, the less time we have to do other things.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?
As regards work, I remember we heard one time that someone was complaining about the course. I remember saying to the late John Hanlon that there’s no thanks for the work we do, and he said: “If you’re looking for thanks, you will never get it.” It stuck with me.

Who was your first hero?
A lot of mine would be in music. I was never into big sporting heroes. Music was my thing. I remember seeing Roy Orbison when he was huge in the Starlight in Westport, people often can’t believe that. It was amazing to see at the time.

Most famous person you ever met?
I was very friendly with Matt Molloy and his late wife, Geraldine, so I met a lot of musicians through them in the bar. The favourite I met was John Prine. I played a few songs with him. Real down to earth, genuine gentleman. For a man who wrote so many songs for so many famous people, all he wanted to do was sit down and hear me singing something. He was very genuine.

Three things always in fridge?
Red meat usually I’m afraid, cheese and probably fish of some kind.

What makes you nervous?
I don’t tend to get too nervous if I can help it. I don’t think I get nerves with anything to do with work. I just like to take life as it comes. I try not to worry about things; if they don’t work out, there is a reason.

Whats your most prized possession?
If I was to save something if everything else was going, it would be my guitar.

If money was no object what would you do?
I always loved to travel. It was great to come home, but I love seeing other places; how the ordinary way of live music and golf courses is done in other places. One of my favourite places is New Orleans.