Europe’s Ryder Cup captain on overcoming adversity

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At a recent EY event in London, Paul McGinley explored the leadership and team-building challenges that he faces as Europe’s 2014 Ryder Cup Captain. In this extract from the event, Paul gives his take on overcoming adversity.

I loved playing Gaelic football when I was younger. I played golf for two months every summer, when the school holidays came along, but Gaelic football was my focus when I was growing up in Dublin.

At the age of 19, I was just about to break into the Dublin first team. But disaster struck when I broke my knee. I was on crutches for nine months. I was devastated because I could no longer play the sport I loved.

At that stage, I was about an eight handicap in golf. I could no longer be a professional Gaelic football player, but becoming a professional golfer was, at that time, a million miles from my mind. Nevertheless, when I came off the crutches I started to play golf.

Having already studied for a diploma in marketing, I worked for the European Community in Brussels for six months, and then for an investment company in Dublin. But I didn’t particularly like sitting behind a desk every day.

Meanwhile, I was getting good at golf. The idea was coming into my mind that I might have the ability to become a professional golfer. I was a one handicap, but I was still not even in the top 100 players in Ireland at that stage, let alone at world-class standard.

I didn’t know what I was going to do for a living, and I wanted to delay my decision. So I wrote away to numerous colleges in America, seeing if I could kill two birds with one stone by studying on a golf scholarship.

All but one said no. They told me I was too old and not good enough. But this guy in San Diego wrote back to say he’d take a chance on me. I wouldn’t get a scholarship during the first year, he said, but if I made the golf team, I’d get one for the next two years. So I missed the first semester to save on costs and then I got a student loan. I got the money together and off I went.

In those two years, I went from being outside the top 100 golfers in Ireland to making the Great Britain and Ireland team for the 1991 Walker Cup – the amateur version of The Ryder Cup. The next year, I turned professional. And here I am now, 22 years later, Captain of Europe’s Ryder Cup Team.


The views of third parties set out in this publication are not necessarily the views of the global EY organization or its member firms. Moreover, they should be seen in the context of the time they were made.