Hurley in high spirits after heroics: "Pressure is for tyres"

Gary Hurley in action during the first round. Picture: Thos Caffrey /

Before the week even started, West Waterford's Gary Hurley said he was going out to make a statement.

“You are always proud to wear the Ireland shirt and show you are from Ireland,” he said, knowing he would be assured of strong support from his West Waterford club mates.

“Hopefully the four of us here this week can do Irish amateur golf proud and show them what we are made of.”

The Island's Gavin Moynihan (69-75), Ballymena's Dermot McElroy (73-73) and Balbriggan's Robbie Cannon (79-74) didn't make the cut yet acquitted themselves admirably on a huge stage. But all the glory went to Hurley, and rightly so.

After opening with a fine 72, the 21-year old produced a five under par 66 to go into the weekend tied for 16th with the likes of defending champion Paul Casey on four under par.

That he did it by raising the roof at a packed Fota Island by holing a near 60 footer on the ninth green for his sixth birdie of the day was a huge thrill.

“It will sink in when I get home,” said Hurely, a Paddy Harrington scholarship student at NUI Maynooth, where he shares with Alan Lowry, the brother of the first amateur to win the Irish Open. “It's just been unreal: such a good week, such a good golf course, such good weather, such a good field! There are some great players playing and I'm just delighted to make the cut and do as well as I have. I'm so happy.”

As he toted his clubs back to the car park for the trip home to Waterford to sleep in his own bed before Saturday’s 10.46 am third round date with Welshman Stuart Manley, he added: “I’m absolutely delighted with the two days. 

“It was a such a good atmosphere. For everyone who came up and supported me, I’d like to thank them so much because they really helped me along. It kept a smile on my face every time there was a cheer and it helped me stay calm. 

“I was a  bit nervous on the first tee but that’s only natural. You have to plan your way around and there are a lot of drivers. But there are also a lot of holes where you can take a shorter club and leave  yourself a longer shot in and it’s not a problem. 

“I like the course, I’ve played it a few times but my putting  has been really good. Since I started working with Donal Scott on my putting it has really come on big time.

“My short game came on really well over the winter when I was working with Johnny Foster, who  helped me big time. But I went back to Fred Twomey for my full swing recently and that’s helped me enormously to keep the ball on the fairway. 

“The highlight? The ninth. I holed a 55 or 60 footer for birdie. I hit the putt and I knew the pace was good pace. As it was tracking, I thought, ‘Oh my God, if this goes in…..’ And in it went. The roar was unbelievable. People were saying it was the loudest one today.

There’s no pressure on him whatsoever now after such heroics.

“No,” he said with a grin. “Pressure is for tyres.”

Still, he’ll want to keep it going now and as he sleeps tonight, he may dream of his housemate’s brother and what happened at Baltray five years ago.

“I am just over the moon but tomorrow is another day,” he said. “I have got to move on and maybe put together another two rounds like that one today. If I can do that, I may get myself up there.”

It was a learning experience for all four amateurs with Cannon happy with his 74 despite a tough day on the greens.

"I four-putted 10 and three putted 16," the former Irish Amateur Open champion said. "You can't have 71 putts at this level. Any level. Still, I really enjoyed the experience. It was fantastic."