Des Morgan will be as concerned about the six-inch course between his ears as the savage rough when he begins his bid to finally break his championship drought in the East of Ireland Amateur Open at County Louth today.
Baltray’s rough is juicier that it has been in years and while the weather is set reasonably fair, the 32-year old Mullingar man will be relying on brains rather than brawn to leave a host of international hopefuls in his wake at a track that may not he quite as friendly as many expect.
Pressure to make Ireland’s six-man team for July’s European Team Championship in Denmark, not to mention the Home International side, will add to the challenge for the likes of Irish Amateur Open champion Robbie Cannon, Rathsallagh’s Jack Hume, Portmarnock’s Geoff Lenehan or Belvoir Park’s Harry Diamond to name but three of the fancied runners in the 156-strong field.
But having narrowly failed to satisfy the huge expectations from his home support in the recent Mullingar Scratch Trophy, Morgan’s only task this weekend will be to think well and stay on the straight and narrow.
“There is a huge premium on driving it straight this year,” said Morgan, who has three top-five finishes at Baltray. “If you do that consistently, you will be there in the shake up.
“You have to have a little bit of manners and while Baltray has tended to be a little bit of a birdie fest on the Monday with guys going out to have a cut at it and the 67s or 68s coming in, you’ll have to be very sensible this year.”
Happy just to be back playing golf having undergone surgery to replace a faulty heart defibrillator three months ago, Morgan will be free of the peer pressure that makes winning the Mullingar Scratch Cup an almost impossible task.
“Playing at home, everyone means well but it adds a little bit of pressure,” said Morgan, who has been drawn with his Mullingar Scratch Cup nemesis Daniel Holland from Castle. “They are hoping you are going to do well but it’s a bit easier to concentrate this week and get into the game. You can just do your own thing.”
Moyola Park’s Chris Selfridge, who won the East and the Irish Close in the space of a week last year, is back from college in the US to defend his title.
But with internationals and Walker Cup aspirants such as Reeve Whitson, Richard O’Donovan and Dermot McElroy away at the clashing Scottish Amateur Strokeplay and reigning North and West of Ireland champion Rory McNamara opting to pull out due to illness with one eye on a string of major events in June, the title race looks wide open.
The bookies have installed Selfridge and Hume, who came within a whisker of winning the Lytham Trophy and the Irish Amateur Open, as the 14/1 favourites.
In reality, it’s anyone’s game with the likes of Simon Ward, US based Paul Dunne, Brian Casey and last year’s runner up Nicky Grant all well capable of winning.
Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell or Portmarnock’s James Fox, who missed out on the play-off by just one stroke last year, will love the challenge.
Perennial East of Ireland challenger Pat Murray and Castlerock’s Aaron Kearney, both of whom challenged in the Irish Amateur Open at Royal Dublin, are unlikely to be far away.
Given the rough, only the straight will survive to contest what promises to be an exciting, 36-hole finale for the top 51 players on Sunday night.
Morgan is hoping he’s the straight hitter with the cool brain who will lift the Lyons Cup.
East of Ireland Amateur Open, Co Louth
Tee times (updated on Friday)
1st Tee/10th Tee
(7:30/12:30) A Gleeson (Castle) P Reavey (Warrenpoint) D Carey (Carton House)
(7:39/12:39) E Smith (Ardee) S Moran (Carton House) A Grant (Dundalk)
(7:48/12:48) B Anderson (Royal Dublin), A Lynch (Castleknock) J Sabir (Glasson)
(7:57/12.57) T McLarnon (Massereene/UUJ) A Kiernan (Forrest Little) C Melvin (Corrstown)
(8:06/13:06) R Cannon (Balbriggan), A McCloy (Ballymena) J Timlin (Dungannon)
(8:15/13:15) D O’Neill (Carton House) S Coulter (Warrenpoint) L Hutchinson (Royal Dublin)
(8:24/13:24) C Fairweather (Knock), R Durnin (Laytown & Bettystown) D Shaw (Belvoir Park)
(8:33/13:33) S Bryan (Delgany) M McClean (Balmoral) S McCarthy (Killeen Castle/NUIM)
(8:42/13:42) S Grehan (Tullamore) A Carrick (Douglas Park) S Flanagan (Co. Sligo)
(8:51/13:51) S Healy (Claremorris) S Carter (NUIM/Stackstown) L McMillan (Carton House)
(9:00/14:00) S McGlynn (Carton House) D Lally (Mullingar) C Drumm (Rosslare)
(9:09/14:09) H Diamond (Belvoir Park) P Cullen (Royal Tara) S Dwyer (Lucan)
(9:18/14:18) C Deegan (Castle) J Greene (Portmarnock) K Quigg (City of Derry)
(12:30/7:30) B Best (Rathmore) N Beirth (Co. Louth) G Carew (Edenderry)
(12:39/7:39) G Lenehan (Portmarnock), K Egan (Carton House), J Walsh (Castle)
(12:48/7:48) J Fox (Portmarnock), D McCusker (Moyola Park), S Brady (Co. Sligo)
(12.57/7:57) C McKenna (Mallow) E O’Keeffe (Corrstown) P O’Brien (Co. Louth)
(13:06/8:06) C Doran (Banbridge) S O’Hara (Co. Sligo) A Kelly (Muskerry)
(13:15/8:15) G O’Flaherty (Cork) J Leacy (Dungarvan) K Lynch (Skibbereen)
(13:24/8:24) N Grant (Knock) M Collins (Killeen Castle) G Dunne (Co. Louth)
(13:33/8:33) E McCormack (Co Cavan) D O’Connor (Athlone) J Monaghan (Royal Dublin)
(13:42/8:42) P Murray (Limerick) Gareth Lappin (Belvoir Park) C Geraghty (L’town & B’town)
(13:51/8:51) S Ward (Co. Louth) R Lester (Hermitage) Q Carew (Edenderry)
(14:00/9:00) J Hume (Rathsallagh) S O’Connor (Luttrellstown) J Richardson (Royal Portrush)
(14:09/9:09) J Pierse (Grange) E Griffin (Waterford) I Lynch (Rosslare)
(14:18/9:18) P Dunne (Greystones) K McCarthy (Kinsale) T Collins (Dun Laoghaire)
10th Tee/1st Tee
(7:30/12:30) P McBride (The Island) T O’Leary (Wexford) D Foy (L’town & B’town)
(7:39/12:39) M Wylie (Quinta da ria Portugal) R Symington (Lisburn) L Ashby (Killerig)
(7:48/12:48) S Ryan (Royal Dublin) C Martin (Kilkenny) C Tormey (Mullingar)
(7:57/12.57) M Reid (Galgorm Castle) J Whelan (Newlands) G Mungovan (Headfort)
(8:06/13:06) G Collins (Rosslare) D Loftus (NUIM) J Hopkins (Royal Dublin)
(8:15/13:15) A Kearney (Castlerock) A Dowling (Hermitage) M Kane (Whitehead)
(8:24/13:24) R Bridges (Stackstown) G Bohill (Co. Louth) S Cannon (Loughrea)
(8:33/13:33) N Gorey (Muskerry) M Mullen (Wexford) E O’Connor (Elm Park)
(8:42/13:42) G McDermott (Co. Sligo) H Coyne (Carton House) N Foley (The Island)
(8:51/13:51) D Morgan (Mullingar) D Holland (Castle) M Brett (Portmarnock)
(9:00/14:00) E Arthurs (Forrest Little) K McDonagh (Athlone) R O’Reilly (Headfort)
(9:09/14:09) S Cullen (Slieve Russell) R O’Sullivan (Cork) A Hanley (Royal Dublin)
(9:18/14:18) B Casey (Headfort) S Walsh (Portmarnock) C Rafferty (Greenore)
(12:30/7:30) M Buggy (Castlecomer) M Morrissey (Mount Wolseley) D Byrne (Greystones)
(12:39/7:39) J Yates (Naas) G McGrane (Royal Dublin) C Kennedy (Forrest Little)
(12:48/7:48) S Hogan (Nenagh) I O’Flynn (Cork) P Connolly (Clontarf)
(12.57/7:57) K Purcell (Dun Laoghaire) JR Galbraith (Whitehead) D Regan (Co. Meath)
(13:06/8:06) M McAlpin (Royal Portrush) C O’Rourke (NUIM) A Lowry (Esker Hills)
(13:15/8:15) I Brennan (Greenore) K Le Blanc (The Island) J Sutherland (Galgorm Castle)
(13:24/8:24) A Hogan (Newlands) P Coughlan (Moate) E Farrell (Ardee)
(13:33/8:33) J Carvill (Banbridge) C O’Sullivan (Fota Island) M O’Rourke (Royal Tara)
(13:42/8:42) M Shanahan (Castlemartyr) G Lawlor (Newbridge) J Lyons (Galway)
(13:51/8:51) T O’Connor (Athlone) D Barry (Mahon) K Crowley (Fota Island)
(14:00/9:00) C Selfridge (Moyola Park) M Sinclair (Knock) D Downie (Sutton)
(14:09/9:09) G McKenna (Fortwilliam) W Hanna (Warrenpoint) R McKinstry (Cairndhu)
(14:18/9:18) M McKnight (LPGA Int.) R Kenny (Naas) C Campbell (Warrenpoint)