When Jordan Spieth said during The Open that he was unsurprised by the feats of Paul Dunne and the other top amateurs at St Andrews, he knew exactly what he was talking about.
“When I was playing junior golf into amateur golf. It was almost a mini-PGA Tour,” Spieth said referring to the level of competition.
“There will be an amateur that wins a PGA event or something like that, possibly even a major, I think, at some point in the next decade or so just because the game in amateur golf across the world now is getting more diverse and more intense, and I think it's awesome for guys to step up and do this.”
Of course, the European Tour is well used to seeing amateurs do well.
And if Shane Lowry can win the 2009 Irish Open, Danny Lee the 2009 Johnnie Walker Classic or Pablo Martin the 2007 Estoril Open de Portugal there’s no reason by Walker Cup star Cormac Sharvin can’t challenge for this week’s Volopa Irish Challenge at Mount Wolseley Hotel Spa and Golf Resort.
“When you see Mr Dunne competing in Open Championships, things like that, you are thinking perhaps that you can go and compete at Mount Wolseley,” Sharvin said before heading off to caddie for Kieran McManus (JP’s brother) in the Alfred Dunhill Links last week.
“I don’t see why not. I have got a chance to win. At the end of the day, if you play well you are probably going to have a chance.
“I can’t see myself turning pro until next year — maybe around May time, when I graduate. But who knows… if you got yourself a little win on the Challenge Tour”
The 22-year old Ardglass amateur is a breath of fresh air in that he wasn’t a scratch player at 15 but a 12 handicapper, winning his first senior competition with 41 stableford points back in 2008.
The following year, he was playing off three and the rest, as they say, is history.
A talented hurler in his time, Sharvin was arguably the best Irish player in the Walker Cup, winning three points out of three and generally impressing everyone with his quick fire style, his aggressive iron-play and his confidence.
If it’s true that Nike are dusting down the chequebook for when he inevitably turns professional, he’s not saying.
“Nike?” he said with a chuckle. “I don’t think I am a big enough athlete for that. You’re the first to say that to me. But I have had some nice messages from people.”
There’s bound to be interest in the world No 18 ranked amateur, especially if he continues to add to his victory tally and shows form in events such as this week’s Challenge Tour tournament in Tullow.
But Sharvin is prepared to take his time, listen to what people have to say and hope that the game continues to come as easy to him as it has so far.
“I am definitely turning pro and it is just a case of when is the right time,” he said. “At the minute I am doing my studies and haven’t made the full decision,
“The plan is not to rush into anything and right now, I am happy to talk to people and keep my options open. I am taking a step back and taking it all in and listening. Obviously a few people are going to be interested.”
Sharvin’s uncle is tour caddie Brian Martin, who recommended him to Stirling University coach Dean Robertson, a former European Tour player.
Martin raves about his nephew and so does the Scottish coach. What do they see? Talent, obviously, but there’s also the confidence factor.
What’s impressive about the Spieths of the world is confidence. And the new breed of Irish players— rookies Dunne, Gary Hurley and Gavin Moynihan or their Walker Cup team mates Sharvin and Jack Hume — are all amazingly confident at a young age.
Sharvin is particularly uncomplicated — reminiscent of a young Lowry in his approach to the game.
“I think it was just believing in myself and my game just developed through playing rather than a lot of technical stuff,” Sharvin said. “The more I play, the more I seem to improve.
“I love getting out there with a card in my hand. For me, if I am playing badly, it is usually something pretty simple and I can work it out myself hitting balls.
“It just seems to come around. If I am hitting it bad, I don’t really dwell on it. It seems to come around pretty quickly.”
His greatest asset isn’t his great ball-striking or his impressive short game but his belief. And that was only bolstered by Dunne’s performance in The Open.
“It brings everyone confidence. You know you’ve beaten him and wonder, ‘Can I do that?’ You don’t know until you are in position, obviously, and Paul showed some great mental strength so it’s hard to know if you can do it until you are in that position yourself.”
Given how well he’s played this year, Sharvin may be about to get his six guns out and test himself against some of Europe’s top young guns in Tullow.
Hold on to your hats, whatever happens to his scorecard, he won’t be afraid to open up. A Texan like Spieth would surely approve.
Two of Ireland’s most promising young stars are also hoping to ride the feel good factor from the Walker Cup at Mount Wolseley.
Rosapenna’s Ruaidhri McGee and Walker Cup player Gavin Moynihan, now a rookie professional, are looking to keep Ireland’s great run of form going in Co Carlow.
McGee, 24, arrives at the spectacular Tullow venue ranked 21st on Challenge Tour money list and just one big finish away from the top 15 who automatically win European Tour cards at the end of the season.
And with just three events to go, he’s hoping the crowds turn up in force to cheer on a 21-strong Irish challenge that features Walker Cup stars Moynihan, Gary Hurley, Jack Hume, Jimmy Mullen and Cormac Sharvin.
“A lot of people will be out watching the Walker Cup boys because the amateurs get a lot of support in Ireland, and the fact that they all did so well at Royal Lytham and St Annes will only add to that,” McGee said.
“My goal is the top 15 in the Rankings and a European Tour spot. It would be ideal to win one of the remaining events. That would take care of everything, and Ireland would be an extra special place to win so fingers crossed.”
While West Waterford and Maynooth University star Hurley missed the cut on his professional debut in the Alfred Dunhill Links, he’ll be inspired by superb performances there by Dunne, who is playing the British Masters this week, and Mullen.
As Dunne finished 19th and Mullen tied 30th at St Andrews, Moynihan battled through the First Stage of Q-School in Portugal just days after learning of the sudden death of his lifetime coach Hugh Jackson.
He had a simple swing thought from “Jacko” in his mind in Lisbon and he’ll be trying to keep things simple on his professional debut on the Challenge Tour.
“I can’t wait to play on the Challenge Tour,” Moynihan said. “The standard is no different to The European Tour. Of course, it’s a step below in the ladder but the scoring is very impressive and the courses they play are not easy either. If you play well on here you’re well capable of playing on The European Tour.”