So how did an Irishman, who hadn’t committed a serious crime, end up in China? Well like all good honest, well qualified Paddies seeking work nowadays, McLoughlin fled Ireland. After wowing the suits with his CV which included setting up a golf resort in Poland (a country much like Ireland in that it has lots of Polish people in it) Paul now heads a 220-strong golf operations staff at the Lake Malaren venue which has been redeveloped for this year’s Tour event by Jack Nicklaus and his design team.
It’s no secret that people work hard in China. Paul remembers toiling around the clock to organize the inaugural Shanghai Masters last year. The $5 million pot then was offered to a restricted field of 30 players with Rory McIlroy winning. This year, thanks to another 80 hour a week regimen, Paul has helped develop a fully fledged European Tour event with a bounty of $7 million and a 78 strong field.
So what can the likes of Rory McIlroy and the Tour’s latest winner expect as they head to Shanghai? Well one thing is for sure, it’s going to be luxury all the way. Golf is reserved for the exceptionally wealthy in China. The state of the art Lake Malaren resort has a three level club house and boasts a dual directional driving range with 30 bays each side and an 18 hole putting green. It also has a 250 bedroom five star hotel to accommodate the field.
I caught up with Paul during a break in the preparations last week to quiz him on life away from home and upcoming BMW Masters.
Have you family in Shanghai? At home? Do you miss Ireland?
I came to China in 2010 alone after opening a golf resort in Poland and went for an interview in Shanghai and was successful from large group of applicants.
Absolutely, I miss family and friends, however I can’t get this type of experience currently in Ireland, and to reach the top of our profession in many aspects there are always sacrifices.
I have lived and worked in America for five years, Poland for two years and already in China two years in addition to stints in Ireland at Glencullen Golf Club, Clontarf Golf Club and Portmarnock Golf Range.
Each continent is a different culture and challenges, and we have to adapt in order to be successful in this industry.
What is your role in the tournament?In 2011 we where the promoter of the invitational Shanghai Masters with winner Rory McIlroy winning the $2million highest first prize in golf. In 2012 we became presenting partner of the BMW Masters and strategically formed this new mega event on the European Tour.
To make the club and operation 100% ready for a massive European tour event.
My role is also involved in planning and liaising with BMW and European Tour teams in many meetings from eight months in advance of the event. We have very large checklists that we are watching each week with timelines. The BMW Masters will go out to several hundred million viewers globally. With three weeks to go we are on track. We overseeded the golf course two weeks ago so it will look really green on TV.
Do you get many golfing visitors from other countries during the year?Our core business is from a full membership of 1500 members, the majority are Chinese businessmen.
We have two courses, the Masters Tour Course which is for members and their guests only, and then we have the Forest Course which is open for all categories of play. We have 80,000 rounds a year over 36 holes with 170 caddies in daily use.
We get many expat players living in Shanghai playing and we always welcome tourists with a stay and play package in our 274 room hotel onsite.
Golf is still a relatively new sport in China. With golf in the Olympics in 2016, we are hoping the Chinese central government lifts the current banning of new course developments since 2004.
So where will you be in 10 years time?For sure in the golf industry, maybe have a similar job in Ireland, maybe working a little less and playing more!
So tell me have you any funny stories from the pros?My lips are sealed. They are almost all very friendly and personable, and good company. I had the great honour of bringing Rory’s clubs and trophy out to his car last year. Does that count? Only joking!
Check out the Lake Malaren golf resort website here