Noel Fox reckons fans looking for a glimpse of the next Rory McIlroy will be rewarded by a trip to the two-day St Andrews Trophy and Jacques Leglise Trophy matches which tee off at Portmarnock today.
The 2003 Walker Cup player was seriously impressed by the likes of The Island’s Gavin Moynihan and England’s Toby Tree, who will represent Great Britain and Ireland in the Jacques Leglise side for under 18s against a Continent of Europe side featuring 14-year old German boy wonder Dominic Foos.
“I love the way he goes about the game,” Fox said of 17-year old Moynihan, who won the Irish Amateur Open at Royal Dublin in May before remaining unbeaten in singles in both the Boys and Senior Home Internationals.
“He has it all upstairs. I’d say his golfing IQ is Mensa. He knows exactly what he can do. Some guys in the Home Internationals were hitting it 60 yards ahead of him and he wasn’t fazed in the least by it.
“Toby Tree is a proper star because hitting a golf ball comes just so easy to him. He’s as good as McIlroy in that regard. The kid is awesome.”
Moynihan helped GB&I win the annual Jacques Leglise Trophy in Spain last year and the north Dublin schoolboy faces a busy autumn away from his school books as he gets set to play next month’s Junior Ryder Cup in Illinois before heading to Turkey to play for Ireland in the Eisenhower Trophy alongside British Amateur champion Alan Dunbar and Waterford Castle’s Kevin Phelan.
Three US colleges are keen to sign Moynihan when he leaves school next summer but for now his mission is to get the home side off to a winning start in the opening Jacque Leglise foursomes alongside the Castle’s Alex Gleeson.
The St Andrews Trophy side is led by GB&I’s non-playing captain Nigel Edwards, who fancies Moynihan to challenge for a place in the Walker Cup side to face the Americans in New York next year.
Dunbar and Phelan are the only Irish players in a nine man St Andrews Trophy team that also features Welsh star Rhys Pugh, the impressive winner of the recent European Amateur Championship at Carton House.
The action concludes tomorrow with both competitions featuring four morning foursomes and eight afternoon singles each day.
And GB&I’s Jackque Leglise selector and former Walker Cup captain believes it’s a great opportunity of golf fans to see some future tour and Ryder Cup players in action.
“The standard is so high. I’d go so far as to say you could stick anybody here, from either team, Boys or Senior, at an Open championship on a range hitting balls and you wouldn’t be able to spot them. The ball striking standard is so high.
“Obviously they’re younger and less experienced in some cases so they wouldn’t normally be quite so savvy and efficient in some ways, but ball striking, you will have the equal of the top end of the pro game here. And you will get to the next starts first.”
For GB&I St Andrews Trophy non-playing captain Edwards, it’s also a chance to build a team ahead of next year’s Walker Cup match in the United States, where America will be trying to win back the trophy.
“You want the players to stand up and put a marker down,” he said of his hopes for the week. “Stand up and be counted really. Obviously only Dunbar and Pugh have played Walker Cup, or they’re the only ones left, and for a lot of these players, it’s the first match they’ll have played against the Continent.
“So it’s a great opportunity for them to up their ante, as it were. They’ve all got long careers ahead of them and I’m sure this is one of the stepping stones to greater things for a lot of them.”
Dunbar plans to go to the European Tour Qualifying School’s first stage near Manchester next month and even if he earns his card, he may not play in the Masters as Amateur champion.
Looking slimmer than ever having lost two stones since last November thanks to a fitness regime he’s been pursuing, Dunbar has signed with Chubby Chandler’s ISM group under the new rules of amateur status and will play as a sponsor’s invitee in next week’s KLM Open.
“If I get through, I get through. If I don’t, it changes, I’d play the Masters then,” he said, adding. “This week the objective is to try and win some points.
Continent of Europe’s non-playing captain, Frenchman Alexis Godillot, played in the matches at Muirfield in 1964 and he’s seen first hand the huge improvement in the standard of continental golfers.
“It is totally different,” he said. “The level of golf on the continent has improved over the last 10 years. We spoke with Nigel about that. It’s probably because a lot of them go to college in America. That has been a positive for the game.”
Huge investment in golf in countries such as France, Germany and The Netherlands is bearing fruit.
Edwards said: “All you have to do is look at how much the Continental countries are investing in the game. They’ve got great opportunities, haven’t they. Take Holland, for example, there’s a very smooth transition from when they turn from amateur to professional. They’ve invested huge amounts in the development of players.”
Waterford born Phelan has been brought up in Florida and Moynihan looks set to join him on the US college circuit, where three universities have shown an interest in offering him a golf scholarship next year.
“I’l been visiting colleges at the end of the year,” he said, explaining that UAB, Auburn and Florida State- Tallahassee are interested.
It’s his last year in Boys golf and he hopes to become a Walker Cup player next year.
“The goal is to keep the form up and I should be there or thereabouts,” he said, adding how pleasantly surprised he was to make the three-man Eisenhower Trophy team.
Great young players are emerging all the time and Continent of Europe’s non-playing captain Gary Stangl believe he has a new star in the making in 14 year old German Dominic Foos.
Stagl said: “At the age of 14 he won the men’s division of the German Matchplay championship, so he is one of the biggest talents I have ever seen and I have captained two Junior Ryder Cup teams with Matteo Manasserro and I would say Dominic is really really good. When you see him behaving on the course, you wouldn’t think he is 14.”
The golf course is sure to play its role over the two days and Edwards has no doubt it will present a fantastic test in fresh winds.
“The first time I played it was 1997 in the European Team Championships when the conditions were really brutal,” he recalled. “I thought it was a great golf course then and I really do appreciate it now.
“It’s just the whole Portmarnock experience, the upgrading of the clubhouse and the practice facility, the three loops of nine holes. It’s just a quality golf course from No 1 to 18 and that’s probably why the pros love coming here for the irish Open.
“You can see it is very fair. There are some holes, No 5 there’s a blind tee shot but generally you can see everything laid out here. It’s a good test.
“The par threes are good strong holes without being overly long. They are not the 230-yard par three you see on most modern courses but they cause enough problems. At the 12th this morning, it was a par six!”
St Andrews Trophy
Continent of Europe v Great Britain and Ireland (Europe names first)
8:20 E Espana & M Lampert v A Dunbar & N Raymond,
8:30 R Karlsson & T Sorensen v C Hinton & B Taylor,
8:40 M Trappel & M Schneider v R Pugh & G Porteous,
8:50 C Pigem & J Pastor v N Kimsey & K Phelan.
Afternoon, eight singles from 13:50 at 9 minute intervals.
Jacques Leglise Trophy
Continent of Europe v Great Britain and Ireland (Europe names first)
7:30 K Subregis & R Langasque v G Moynihan & A Gleeson,
7:40 V Tarnstrom & H Ronneblad v T Tree & M Orrin,
7:50 M Schwab & D Foos v A Turner & P Kelly,
8:00 M Galiano & G Castagnara v H Ellis & M Fitzpatrick.
Afternoon, eight singles from 12:30 at 9-minute intervals.