Five Walker Cup spots for Ireland? Cormac Sharvin can't see why not
Cormac Sharvin at Royal Dublin. Picture © Pat Cashman

Cormac Sharvin at Royal Dublin. Picture © Pat Cashman

Ireland might have won 10 of the 20 Irish Amateur Open Championships staged since it was revived in 1995 but while we once looked jealously to the overseas raiders, they now come to us hoping to add a notch to their collective belts.

What better illustration of the vaunted position Irish amateur golf now holds than the number of high ranking Irish players with high hopes of winning the title at The Royal Dublin on Sunday.

The World Amateur Golf Ranking is the barometer of success these days and Ireland boasts four of the top 100 in today's field which is one more than nearest rivals Scotland, who count reigning British Amateur champion and world No 22 Bradley Neil as well as defending champion Jamie Savage (48th) in their 15-strong raiding party.

There are 58 Irishmen in the 120-strong field that will, in a new departure this year, battle the muscular Dollymount links over the next three days with the top 50 and ties qualifying for Sunday’s final round.

Applying the cut after 54 rather than 36 holes and giving the elite amateurs who make the journey a chance to make it worthwhile with three days of competition is a good move providing you don't have to work for a living. 

The Thursday start benefits the full time amateur, no doubt, but it also adds to the quality of the event that could do without the annual clash of dates with an England international. One round on Sunday eliminates that often endless 36-hole day and the possibility of weather delays.

Time will tell if it is a success or if Ireland can add an 11th winner to the list of champions that features major winners Pádraig Harrington and Louis Oosthuizen as well as multiple European Tour winner Michael Hoey to name just three of the illustrious recent champions.

Scots Neil and Savage will be among the favourites to hang around the lead until Sunday, especially the former, who was ninth in the Lytham Trophy at Walker Cup venue Royal Lytham and St Annes last Sunday.

But of the six irish players in the world’s Top 100, all bar US-based Paul Dunne and Chris Selfridge (the Moyola Park man is turning pro next month) are in the field today and all of them (plus  many more besides) have high hopes of lifting the title.

Not only is 34th ranked Gary Hurley from West Waterford joined by No 49 Jack Hume, No 65 Gavin Moynihan and two stunning talents in West of Ireland champion Dermot McElroy from Ballymena and Faithlegg international Robin Dawson, we’ve also got one of the hottest amateurs on the planet right now in Ardglass’ Cormac Sharvin.

The 22-year old arrived in Dublin late last night having taken his final exam of the year in Sports Studies at the University of Stirling in Scotland yesterday afternoon.

The 2013 irish Close champion is not concerned that he didn’t get a practice round having finished joint second in the Lytham Trophy last Sunday with identical preparation.

“Maybe it’s a good omen,” said Sharvin, who leapt 22 places to 41st in the World Amateur Golf Ranking yesterday having made a big leap last month by retaining his British Universities title over the Duke's Course at St Andrews.

He certainly has good vibes about his form and he’s confident about his chances at Royal Dublin, where he was joint second behind Savage last year.

He’s now a serious contender for a Walker Cup place and knows that a run of big performances over the next four months will secure a debut at Royal Lytham and St Annes from September 12-13.

GB&I skipper Nigel Edwards is well aware of his talents and those of the rest of the Irish team that won the Home Internationals last year and finished second to Spain in the European Team Championships.

Rather than wondering if Ireland can get two or even three players in the Walker Cup team, there is now talk in amateur circles of up to five representatives, surpassing 1949 when Joe Carr, Cecil Ewing and Jimmy Bruen were joined by reigning British Amateur winner Sam McCready at Winged Foot.

“I think that’s definitely possible,” Sharvin said from Scotland on Wednesday before heading off to study for his exam. “Out of the four home nations we’ve got the strongest team right now. With the likes of Gary (Hurley), Jack (Hume), Gavin (Moynihan), myself, Paul (Dunne) and Dermot (McElroy) it is nearly as strong a team as we have ever had, apart from the Shane Lowry/Rory McIlroy era perhaps. 
“I do think we could have five in the side, 100 percent. But again, the Walker Cup is in September, so there’s a lot of golf to be played between now and then. 
“It’s in my hands and my golf will decide whether I play or not. But if I can keep doing what I am doing and keep playing well, I should be in with a good chance.”

There are more than one or two strong Irish players in the field, not to mention 62 overseas players from 21 territories such as Sharvin's Stirling University team mate Matthias Eggenberger — a plus four handicapper from Switzerland who won on his last visit to Ireland, claiming the Irish Colleges Invitational by nine shots from Hurley at County Louth last October.

Sharvin had his uncle on the bag last year and at Royal Lytham last weekend. Not your common or garden uncle but European Tour caddie Brian Martin, who caddie for Peter Lawrie and Gary Murphy before moving on the new star Alexander Levy last year and Matteo Manassero in recent months.

Sadly for Sharvin, Martin is not available this week. But given his recent form, he's still lively to be a factor on a course that suits his game.

“I think it is quite demanding and that suits my game pretty well with a big onus on iron play and some tricky shots around the greens,” said Sharvin, who closed with a one over 71 at Royal Lytham to finish eight shots behind runaway winner Marcus Kinhult of Sweden.

On paper he finished well behind the Swedish world No 2, but the reality is that Sharvin outplayed Kinhult for most of the final round, getting to within three shots of his rival before missing a great birdie chance at the 16th and then finishing bogey-triple bogey.

"I’ve never been so disappointed coming off a golf course in my life," he said. "I was three under playing 17 and could easily have been six or seven under, I had so many chances.
"I missed the sixth green and had to pitch out and hit an eight iron to four feet and saved par. Apart from that I hit every green for 16 holes. I was hitting it quite close as well and didn’t hit a bad shot until I found the bunker on 17 and didn't hole the putt. 
"On 18 I pulled my tee shot slightly but there was no rough really and I didn’t ever think it was going to be a lost ball. But it was — even with 40 people looking. I felt a bit unlucky to be honest. It was gutting to go from possibly shooting a 65 to shooting a 71. I had a few chances to get closer to him but I missed a good chance on 16 to get within three with two to go. Anything could happen at Lytham with that kind of lead but it was not to be."

While McElroy was 10th and Hurley 19th of Ireland's Walker Cup panellists, missed cuts for Hume, Moynihan and Dawson at Royal Lytham and St Annes will not have added to their Walker Cup cachet.

Moynihan is the only player with Walker Cup experience on the panel and so looks likely to retain his place, especially if he shows any kind of decent form over the summer. Hurley and Dunne are also highly fancied to win their places while Hume has been impressive so far this year. McElroy's win in the West gets him noticed but it's time now to rack up wins in the big events.

Sharvin knows that while he's now staked a serious claim to a Walker Cup spot, he must keep his head down.

"With the Walker Cup in September, it was nice to put in a performance there," he admitted. "It’s in my hands to be honest and my golf will decide whether I play Walker Cup or not. If I can keep doing what I am doing and keep playing well, I should be in with a good chance. 

"I don’t want to get ahead of myself and start thinking about Walker Cup. I just need to take it one tournament at a time and come the end of the season, if I have played well I will have a good chance of getting selected." 

The fact that he has played foursome with Hurley, Moynihan and Hume makes him a versatile player for GB&I skipper Edwards, who will have his eyes and eyes at Royal Dublin in the shape of at least one R&A selector.

"I'll take two weeks off after the Irish Amateur to concentrate on my golf now with the Scottish Amateur, British Amateur, the St Andrews Links, the Brabazon Trophy and then the European Team Championships."

As for the post Walker Cup future, he says: "The dream is definitely to be a professional golfer but we all know how tough that is. So I will finish my degree next year and have that to fall back on first. If it doesn’t work out I would love to work in the sports industry in some way."

The Royal Dublin GC (Blue tees)

Hole Yards Par
1 North Bull 400 4
2 Babington's 484 5
3 Alps 408 4
4 Feather Bed 179 3
5 Ireland's Eye 488 4
6 Valley 597 5
7 Ardilaun 214 3
8 Ben Howth 412 4
9 Davidson's 175 3
OUT 3357 35  
10 Marne 465 4
11 Colt's 560 5
12 Campbell's 205 3
13 Dardanelles 466 4
14 Moran's 562 5
15 Hogan's 454 4
16 Dolly 305 4
17 Coastguard's 447 4
18 Garden 476 4
IN 3940 37
TOTAL 7297 72  

Irish Amateur Open Championship, Royal Dublin

Tee-times (Today/Fri)

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  1. (7:00/10:51) J Fox (Portmarnock), T Mulligan (Co. Louth), J Hopkins (Royal Dublin);
  2. (7:11/11:02) M Zillekens (Ger), K Mc Donnell (Forrest Little), A Grant (Dundalk); 
  3. (7:22/11:13) P Coughlan (Moate), D O’Neill (Carton House), S O'Connor (Carton House);
  4. (7:33/11:24) M Morrissey (Mount Wolseley), E Leonard (Wentworth), C Rafferty (Dundalk); 
  5. (7:44/11:35) M Jordan (Eng), E Smith (Ardee), C Fairweather (Knock); 
  6. (7:55/11:46) G Collins (Rosslare), O Roberts (HKG), A Wilson (Wal); 
  7. (8:06/11:57) J Bush (Wal), E Griffin (Waterford), A Culverwell (Sco); 
  8. (8:17/12:19) R Dawson (Faithlegg), G Marchbank (Sco), R James (Wal);
  9. (8:28/12:30) G Rean Trinchero (Ita), T Harry (Wal), G McDermott (Carton House); 
  10. (8:39/12:41) J Hume (Naas), E Griffiths (Wal), E Richardson (Eng);
  11. (8:50/12:52) V Lopes (Por), S Gibson (Sco), C Campbell (Warrenpoint);
  12. (9:01/13:03) M Penge (Eng), G Moynihan (The Island), J Savage (Sco);
  13. (9:12/13:14) R Cannon (Balbriggan), C MacLean (Sco), C Breaking (Ger); 
  14. (9:34/13:25) L Trocado (RSA), G Hurley (West Waterford), J McDonald (Sco);
  15. (9:45/13:36) M Hirmer (Ger), D McElroy (Ballymena), M Ludwig (Aut);
  16. (9:56.13:47) M Habeler (Aut), JR Galbraith (Whitehead), C Syme (Sco); 
  17. (10:07/13:58) I O’Rourke (Royal Dublin), J Morris (Rosslare), J Lube (Ger); 
  18. (10:18/14:09) J Szmidt (Pol), S McGlynn (Carton House), S Coulter (Warrenpoint); 
  19. (10:29/14:20) G Fitzmaurice (Balcarrick), M Loetscher (SUI), S Bryan (Delgany);
  20. (10:40/14:31) M Shanahan (Castlemartyr), K McCarron (North West), T Hackett (USA); 
  21. (10:51/7:00) S Ryan (Royal Dublin), C Consul (Ger), M Sinclair (Knock); 
  22. (11:02/07:11) M Nolan (Delgany), S Cullen (Slieve Russell), Andy Borg (Mlt); 
  23. (11:13/7:22) M Hegemann (Ger), S Carter (Royal Dublin), T Bessa (Por); 
  24. (11:24/7:33) E Arthurs (Forrest Little), C Ilic (Srb), B Best (Rathmore); 
  25. (11:35/7:44) B Anderson (Royal Dublin), N MacAndrew (Sco), J Smedley (Eng); 
  26. (11:46/7:55) M Reid (Galgorm Castle), D Loftus (Castlebar), C Baird (Sco); 
  27. (11:57/8:06) R Mullarney (Galway), A Blaney (Sco), S Healy (Carton House); 
  28. (12:19/8:17) T McLarnon (Massereene), J Pierse (Portmarnock), N Poppleton (Eng); 
  29. (12:30/8:28) R Symington (Lisburn), G Stevenson (Sco), P Dedek (Cze); 
  30. (12:41/8:39) J Allan (Eng), R Lester (Hermitage), J Callahan (USA); 
  31. (12:52/8:50) K LeBlanc (The Island), A Mason (Eng), M Naysmith (Sco);
  32. (13:03/9:01) C Ross (Sco), S Flanagan (Co. Sligo), S Prins (Ned); 
  33. (13:14/9:12) M Eggenberger (SUI), R Bridges (Stackstown), K Reints (Ned); 
  34. (13:25/9:34) L Lipold (Aut), C O'Rourke (Naas), M Iten (SUI);
  35. (13:36/9:45) A Boasson (Isl), S Lopez (Esp), A Gleeson (Castle); 
  36. (13:47/9:56) S Grehan (Tullamore), T Gandy (IOM), R Knightly (Royal Dublin);
  37. (13:58/10:07) C Sharvin (Ardglass), M Cea (Ita), E Ferguson (Sco); 
  38. (14:09/10:18) S Bleakley (Shandon Park), J Hickey (Cork), J Ekeland Arnoy (Nor); 
  39. (14:20/10:29) J McGinn (Laytown & Bettystown), D Coulson (Eng), C Simberg (Fin); 
  40. (14:31/10:40) J Yates (Naas), J Whelan (Newlands), W Enefer (Eng).