McNamara floats despite butterflies

Cian McNamara overcame all nervousness to produce an impressive first round display on his Irish Open debut. Picture: Thos Caffrey / www.golffile.ieShane Lowry and Michael Hoey grabbed the headlines as they finished the day snapping at the heels of first round leader Oscar Floren in the Irish Open at a rain-splattered Carton House.

But as Swedish journeyman opened with an immaculate 66 to lead by one from Lowry, Hoey, Jean Baptiste Gonnet of France, American rookie Peter Uihlein and Dutchman Joost Luiten there  were a few unsung Irish heroes near at the top of the leaderboard.

West Waterford’s Seamus Power and Co Down resident Simon Thornton were impressive in the soggy conditions as they posted three under 69s to share 13th place.

Yet it was Limerick native Cian McNamara really who caught the imagination the day before his 27th birthday as he posted a four under par 68 in the worst of the early morning rain to share seventh place with two-time Masters champion José María Olazábal and former Ryder Cup players Paul Casey and Thomas Bjorn on his Irish Open debut.

Now the club professional at Monkstown Golf Club, McNamara’s performance surprised not only himself but his enthusiastic supporters from Cork and Limerick, who arrived late at the venue and were surprised to see his name near the top of the leaderboard.

“Yeah it was a bit crazy there on the back nine, I could see they were all gathering,” said McNamara, who had five birdies and just one bogey.

“It was an early tee-time and they had to come from Cork, from Limerick and from Monkstown and weren’t able to make the front nine.

“So when they came, Simon [Keelan my caddie and assistant at Monkstown] was laughing because they could see the leaderboard and they were saying, ‘what the hell?!’.

“I could see them running over. But listen, it was a very enjoyable day. For myself I just want to do a nice bit of practice and do myself justice tomorrow. That’s all I’m trying to do and I showed today I can play the golf on the day, I just have to try to do it again tomorrow.

“I’m not going to panic or put myself under pressure, I’m not setting myself a result or a goal - just to do that. That’s the story.”

Cian McNamara holed some clutch putts in his opening 68 at Carton House. Picture: Thos Caffrey / www.golffile.ieOut in the third group of the day off the first tee alongside the Argentinian Emiliano Grillo and the Norwegian Espen Kofstad, McNamara confessed that he had to battle a serious case of butterflies.

“Unbelievable,” he said. “I’ve never, ever felt anything like it. I don’t know what it was, it was just really, really different.

“I was saying to Simon, the caddie, he’s a great friend of mine,  the feeling on the first was something that I’ve never had. It was like, ‘what am I getting myself in for?’.

“But then you’ve just got to man up and do it and really when you get into the round, it’s just more enjoyable rather than worrying, you’re just there.”

Nervous as he was, he still made birdie at the first.

“It was just a really solid drive, just a nice little six-iron to six feet and holed it, and I was up and running.

“From there, then, Simon was brilliant. We kinda made a rule for the day that there would be no talk about the occasion, we were just talking about things that were going on back in the club in Monkstown or regular stories.

“So I didn’t really pay attention. Even when I was going up 18, when I looked it was, “Jeany, there’s loads of people around’. I really didn’t know how many people were around until I’d finished.

“I’m just very happy with how things went.”

Winner of the South of Ireland title in 2004, McNamara knows that he’s not expected to shoot the lights out in this company. But that’s not to say that he is not ambitious.

“I spent a full day with Eddie Doyle on Tuesday and that’s all we were saying, was hitting it quite well on the range on Tuesday, I didn’t want to look around but I was like, I can play here.  And the only goal of the day was just do justice for yourself when you’re standing up and hitting the shots.”

After a three-putt bogey at the fifth, McNamara birdied the par-three seventh by hitting a five iron to eight feet and never looked back.

“I didn’t really worry. I had got to the stage where I wasn’t thinking about the score, I was just happy that I was comfortable,” he said.

“I had a lovely birdie on the seventh hole, should have birdied eight and nine. Then the back nine was playing hard but I didn’t make a bogey on it, I didn’t even hit the ball that well but I just hung in there and didn’t panic.

“I just enjoyed it, to be honest, more than I’ve enjoyed any round. It was just brilliant. You just had to man up the whole time. “

He then birdied the 10th and picked up another shot at the driveable 13th by wedging close before rounding off a perfect day with a birdie four at the 18th.

“I didn’t see the leaderboard until the 16th green. Simon could see it, I knew myself I shouldn’t be looking but for me for to be looking and watching the boys, Lowry and McGinley, my God to see your name there was a crazy feeling.

“It is but it didn’t bother me then. On 17 I was just thinking, ‘let’s get the four here, let’s make sure the name stays there’.

“So I really manned up. I took on 18 and left it short, had a tough chip and then with the putt I was thinking, ‘you’d want to hole it’. It was about six-seven feet.”

McNamara’s ambition coming into the week was simply to do himself justice.

“It wasn’t about making the cut or doing well, just do myself justice,” he said. “I should be shooting a respectable score and I hadn’t been doing great, so that’s all I was really looking for, just do yourself justice, play the way you know you can and don’t get ahead of yourself.

“And if you hit bad shots - and I hit plenty of them - I didn’t worry about them. I just got on with it and said, ‘right, I knew this was going to happen and I’m not going to let it happen again’.

“So that was what I did really well, to be fair. I hit a lot of bad shots and never let them bother me, and I hit a lot of good shots to counter-act them.”



1st Tee

7.30: R Davies (Wal), J Parry (Eng), J G Kelly.

7.40: J Walters (SA), N Fasth (Swe), G Shaw.

7.50: C Macauley (Sco), C Lloyd (Eng), O Floren ((Swe).

8.00: M Lampert (Ger), A Levy (Fra), M Murphy.

8.10:  M Campbell (NZ), SSP Chowrasia (Ind), J Sjolholm (Swe).

8.20: S Kjeldsen (Den), J Van Zyl (SA), G Storm (Eng).

8.30: V Dubuisson (Fra), Jbe Kruger (SA), R Santos (Por).

8.40: M A Carlsson (Swe), D Howell (Eng), T Lewis (Eng).

8.50: R Green (Aus), C Cevaer (Fra), D Drysdale (Sco).

9.00: J-B Gonnet (Fra), B Stone (SA), M Baldwin (Eng).

9.10: S Wakefield (Eng), M Lundberg (Swe), A Kaleka (Fra).

9.20: J M Lara (Sp), M Lafeber (Ned), B Trainor.

9.30: D Mooney, P Hedblom (Swe), B Akesson (Swe).
12.30: R Gonzalez (Arg), G Havret (Fra), R Wattel (Fra),

12.40: Peter Lawrie, G Maybin, B Rumford (Aus).

12.50: R McIlroy, S Lowry, T Bjorn (Den).

1.00: Paul Lawrie (Sco), A Quiros (Sp), P Casey (Eng).

1.10: P McGinley, M Ilonen (Fin), S Gallacher (Sco).

1.20: D McGrane, S Jamieson (Sco), T Levet (Fra).

1.30: A Hansen (Den), P Larrazabal (Sp), S Dyson (Eng).

1.40: C Paisley (Eng), G Moynihan (Am), M Wiegele (Aut). 

1.50: E Goya (Arg), J Edfors (Swe), C Lee (Sco).

2.00: R-J Deerksen (Ned), D Fichardt (SA), P Price (Wal).

2.10: J Campillo (Sp), S Webster (Eng), K Phelan Am.

2.20: A Tadini (It), A Sullivan (Eng), R McEvoy (Eng).

2.30: R Coles (Eng), S Henry (Sco), R Pugh Am (Wal).

10th Tee

7.30: R Whitson Am, C Del Moral (Sp), M Delpodio (It).

7.40:R Sterne (SA), J M Olazabal (Sp), M Hoey.

7.50: G McDowell, P Harrington, J Donaldson (Wal).

8.00: D Clarke, F Molinari (It), R Fisher (Eng).

8.10: S Khan (Eng), M Warren (Sco), J M Singh (Ind).

8.20: S Thornton, J Luiten (Ned), P Uihlein (US).

8.30: R Cabrera-Bello (Sp), R Jacquelin (Fra), R Rock (Eng).

8.40: D Van Derr Valt (SA), R Finch (Eng), F Andersson-Hed (Swe).

8.50: A Dunbar, E De La Riva (Sp), JB Hansen (Den).

9.00: L Jensen (Den), M Nixon (Eng), M Tullo (Chi).

9.10: A Canizares (Sp), P Sjoland (Swe), F Zanotti (Par).

9.20: G Stal (Fra), M Kieffer (Ger), T Fleetwood (Eng).

9.30: M Southgate (Eng), P Whiteford (Sco), R Bland (Eng).
12.30: A Dodt (Aus), E Pepperell (Eng), T McCumber (US).

12.40: F Aguilar (Chile), G Mulroy (SA), M Foster (Eng).

12.50: C McNamara, E Grillo (Arg), E Kofstad (Mor).

1.00: M Staunton, S Dodd (Wal), L Slattery (Eng).

1.10: S Little (Eng), J Lagergren (Swe), B McGovern.

1.20: K Broberg (Swe), S Arnold (Aus), P Waring (Eng).

1.30: D Gaunt (Aus), M Jonzon (Swe), D Higgins.

1.40: H Otto (SA), K Horne (SA), D Willett (Eng).

1.50: I Garrido (Sp), D E Ryan, G Lockerbie (Eng).

2.00: W-Y Huang (Chn), D Brooks (Eng), C Doak (Sco),

2.10: J Morrison (Eng), S Hansen (Den), O Fisher (Eng),

2.20: D Gleeson, S Benson (Eng), LGagli (It)

2.30: A Snobeck (Fra), A Harto (Den), S Power.