As someone who was thrust into the spotlight from a young age, Niall Horan knows what it feels like to become a global superstar almost overnight.
A few months after auditioning for The X Factor as a 16-year-old in 2010, he was part of the biggest boy band in the world when One Direction was formed.
From a quiet life as a schoolboy in Ireland, he rose to become one of the most famous people in the world.
And yet, far from all the fame and fortune that came with number one hits and chart hits, within Horan there was a sporting passion that always burned brightly.
To be fair, he was a crazy golfer long before he became a pop star. It’s that passion that set Horan on the path to starting his own golf management company.
Former One Direction star Niall Horan has started his own golf management company
Modest Golf was founded in 2016 and already boasts an impressive array of talent, with Ryder Cup star Tyrrell Hatton and Scottish duo Connor Syme and Ewen Ferguson all on board.
Horan knows all too well the pressures and demands that come with living in the public eye and trying to reach the top of your chosen field.
If he can pass on even an ounce of that wisdom and experience to some of the company’s young talent, it will only bring benefits.
Horan explained that he wanted to change the way young golfers were groomed and protected by agents, saying: ‘The best players in the world start getting really good very early.
‘So it is important to have good people around you from the start who have your best interests at heart.
‘Suddenly you’re in the big bad world and you have to sort out agents and stuff like that.
‘Even though the selection is small and you think you know everyone, I can’t imagine it being that easy to make that decision. That’s what we wanted to solve.
Ryder Cup star Tyrrell Hatton is among the golfers who have signed up for Horan’s Modest Golf
Hatton (middle) won the Ryder Cup with Team Europe in Rome last month
“A lot of my friends were golfers and I spent a lot of time socially on tour.
‘What I quickly noticed was that a lot of the young guys, especially those just below the DP World Tour, didn’t know where they were going to play the next week, or seemed a little unsure about this, that or the other. .
“I was like, ‘I love golf and I’d like to see the next generation come through and be protected and supported.’ That’s where it started.’
Scottish duo Syme and Ferguson are just two of the players who appear to be flourishing under Horan’s management company.
Ferguson won the DP World Tour twice in five months in 2022 and both he and Syme are in the top 50 of the Race to Dubai rankings this season.
Syme’s decision to sign up for Modest Golf in 2017 also led to an interesting meeting with a well-known friend of Horan’s at St Andrews, none other than Rory McIlroy.
Mark McDonnell, who co-founded the company with Horan, explains: ‘To this day I still hear people say to me, ‘Is Niall really involved’?
‘Of course he is! It is clear that he cannot be present at every event and meeting, but he has been present at all the important decisions and moments in the history of our company.
“We signed Connor Syme when he turned pro after the Walker Cup and the Dunhill was one of his first events.
Scottish young duo Ewen Ferguson (left) and Connor Syme (right) have both signed to Horan’s management company
Horan has over 70 million followers on his social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram
“Niall made it a point to be there. Rory McIlroy was playing that week and Niall personally asked him if he wanted to play a few holes with Connor.
‘How’s that for a start to your career? A few holes with Rory McIlroy on the Old Course!’
With more than 70 million followers on his social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram, Horan’s influence stretches far and wide.
It’s that kind of platform that makes him such an asset to golf, a sport he clearly wants to help develop and grow.
The former One Direction star explained his love for the game from a young age: ‘It was all about watching Tiger on Sunday nights.
“Plus we had (Darren) Clarke, (Paul) McGinley and (Padraig) Harrington destroying it at the time. And the great thing about golf in Ireland is that you can find it everywhere.
“Once the band got going and we started traveling around the world, I took the bats (golf clubs) everywhere. Honestly, there have been more places than my guitar.
“I always say this, but you know, I have 40 million Twitter followers and a few more on Instagram. When I post about golf here and there, only one percent of my followers are interested in golf. Look, I’m no mathematician, but it’s a lot!
‘Don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of them will say, “Oh great, he’s talking about golf again!” But I guarantee there are quite a few people who will read that tweet and go to the driving range, or go to Topgolf, or even try to get involved in some way.
‘It’s about letting them know that the sport really exists. You never know how many will go, “Well, if Niall thinks it’s cool, maybe it’s cool.”’
The new venture has not been without challenges. Especially from those in the game, Horan sensed an air of cynicism in the early days when the company was just starting out.
Horan (left) is an ambassador for the R&A and in June took part in the R&A’s launch of Golf.Golf, a pilot in Scotland to encourage people to learn to play golf at a wide range of golf facilities
“To be honest, I expected the cynicism,” he said. “There are officers at the range who have been there for a long time.
‘They know the tour inside and out and have had their choice of players for a long time. When they saw me show up and try to join in, they were probably a little like, “Who is he”?
‘We heard bits and pieces here and there, but that just gave us more drive – a healthy drive – to prove them wrong. Not in a ‘we’ll show them’ kind of way. In fact, “we really want to do this”.’
It is a new venture and a new direction that is going from strength to strength. Following his own career in the music industry, Horan is determined to help more young golfers hit the high notes.
NIALL HORAN spoke in the new edition of bunkered, which was released on Wednesday. For more great golf content, visit www.bunkered.co.uk