Seamus Power says most people don't realize that there is an Irish language. Or, Gaeilge, to be more precise.
"I sometimes tell people and they think I'm kidding," he says. "They think it's just a way of speaking English with a funny Irish accent."
Actually, Gaeilge is the first and official language of Ireland, recognized by the European Union. Irish uses the same alphabet as other European countries and the United States, but the phonetics are very different. It also has its own font.
Many of the words bear little resemblance to English or Spanish or other more common languages, Power says. Sentence structure is different from English, too. Instead of "My name is Seamus Power," he says the Irish way would be "Seamus Power is my name."
So in Gaeilge, he would write: Seamus de paor ainm dom. (The phonetics simply don't translate well on paper or the Internet, though, so we won't try here.)
English, with that "funny Irish accent" that Power mentioned, is spoken by the majority on the island and is also an official language. But there are several areas called Gaeltacht where Irish speakers predominate.
"I don't think Irish will ever go away," Power says. "We're very proud of having our own language."
Power was born in Waterford, Ireland and grew up playing golf against Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry. He started learning Irish, as most kids do, in what would be elementary school over here in the States. The classes continue until students graduate from high school. There are even summer camps where kids can go to improve their Irish.
"So everyone's got some level of it," Power says.
The 30-year-old Power, who came to the United States to play golf at East Tennessee State and now has a home in Charlotte, doesn't get to speak Irish very much anymore. When he's home in Ireland, though, he often hears Irish words used in English conversations - for example, someone might say "buachaill maith" instead of using the expression "good boy" or "good man."
"It's funny because there's different dialect even throughout Ireland in Irish," Power says. "You kind of pick up where they come from when they speak Irish."
Power's first name is the Irish word for James while Liam is a shortened version of William and Sean is John. At the Olympics last year, Power even gave his American caddy John Rathouz an Irish name - Sean Teach Francach (the latter two words translate to house rat).
While Power says he was a pretty good student of the Irish language, his best courses were math, chemistry and physics. He also has a keen interest in history and enjoys reading about World War I and World War II, as well as Irish, American and European affairs.
"I read more history books than I do novels," Power says. "When I finish a novel, it's funny, but I feel like I didn't really get much out of it where I feel like I'm always learning when I read a history book."
Irish history is particularly rich, dating back to the Stone Age. He doesn't remember concentrating that much on the subject in high school but his interest has grown in recent years.
"There's so many significant time periods it's unbelievable," Power said. "When I came to the U.S. and went to history class, there was like two history classes, one was pre-1865 and one was post, and I was like, this is fantastic.
"I remember back in Ireland, we started 10,000 B.C., when we started learning history and we go from there. … I didn't study it particularly in school. I was okay. I never focused on it.
"But in the last few years, I just always enjoyed it, I tried to learn some stuff, see what happened, see what the world could have been and the reason it is where it is now, that sort of stuff."
And the Irish language is a big part of that long history.
"Ireland is very proud," Power said with a smile. "Very stubborn history. So, language is something we would like to have, like to hang on.
"We don't always use it. If someone tried to take it away, everyone would be up in arms about it."