By Brian Keogh
Don't tell teacher, but schoolboy golfer Clancy Bowe is set to juggle his books with his golf clubs in a bid for Walker Cup glory.
The 18-year-old Tramore kid was a shock addition to the Walker Cup training panel this week - having never played for Ireland at senior level.
The problem is that the dreaded Leaving Certificate is barring the youngster's attempt to become Ireland's youngest Walker Cup
player since Ronan Rafferty.
Rafferty was just 17 when he played at Cypress Point in 1981. And while the Walker Cup isn't until September, Bowe's chances of impressing the selectors will be severely limited until he finishes his Leaving at CBS Tramore in Waterford on June 20.
Long hours of study will force him to miss the Irish Close Championship at his home club as well as the British Amateur Championship at Troon and the English Amateur at Hunstanton.
In fact, he might even have to arrange to sit his oral Irish and French exams at another school, just to make it to the next squad training session under skipper Garth McGimpsey.
"I just couldn't believe it," said Bowe of his surprise selection. "When the letter came I thought it was something to do with the Great Britain and Ireland Boys team I had played on for the past two years.
"But then I saw a list of names and the words 'Walker Cup' so I thought I had better read the letter properly - from the beginning."
Bowe discovered that he had been invited to Great Britain and Ireland's elite 32-man training squad - a signal that his talent had not gone unnoticed by McGimpsey and his fellow selectors.
But his talent had already been recognised by Open champion and US Ryder Cup player Mark Calcavecchia.
The American star played eighteen holes with Bowe in the Carlsberg Tramore Golf Classic, held at Bowe's home club around the time of the Amex Championship at Mount Juliet last September.
"He's a mighty fine young player," said the American at the time. "He's certainly plenty of talent to work on."
Now the Waterford youngster has earned the right to join the likes of 42-year-old amateur legend Gary Wolstenholme and established Irish internationals Noel Fox, Justin Kehoe, Gareth Maybin and Colm Moriarty at Ganton in April.
Clancy said: "It was totally unexpected but I'm extremely happy. I had a good year last year but this is the kind of thing that you just don't even dream about. It certainly take s your mind off the books for a while."
The Waterford youngster made a huge impression on the R and A selectors when he was unbeaten in foursomes as the Great Britain and Ireland Boys team beat Continental Europe in Switzerland last year to take the Jacque Leglise Trophy.
But he didn't win a championship at junior level last term and so didn't qualify to take part in a clinic run by the Darren Clarke Foundation at Portmarnock late last summer.
In fact, Bowe is so new to the scene that he is only just coming to grips with what his selection could mean.
"I haven't even thought about Youths international level yet, never mind the Irish Senior team. I've played three seasons at Boys level but even Youths is a huge step up from there. It's just a huge leap to the Walker Cup panel - and even though I'm just one of 32 it's great to be there."
But school comes first and Ireland's latest golfing star knows that he will need a qualification to fall back on if things don't work out.
"My real goal is the Leaving. It's all about time management at this stage. I have to try and get the best of both worlds at the moment. I suppose a more realistic goal is the 2005 Walker Cup, so I've got another two and a half years to get there."
Like his great hero Padraig Harrington, Bowe plans to take care of his education in case his golf career doesn't work out.
And like Harrington, he has decided to do accountancy at a local college so that he can continue to practice hard on the practice range.
"I was going to go away and do it, but it's not an option if you want to improve your golf," he said. "I would only be able to play on the weekends if I went to Cork or Dublin and I would have to lug my clubs on a bus or to the course.
"I've spoken to a few of the big accountancy firms around and they have recommended this course at DIT in Waterford which will give me a bit of time to play golf."
And like Harrington, Bowe hopes that his rise through the Golfing Union of Ireland coaching system will help him get to the very top in the game.
"I really admire the way Padraig works," he explained. "To be honest, they say that he wasn't that good when he was really young but he has improved every single year since he was about 12. He's just put in so much work.
"In fact, I went through a bit of a Padraig Harrington year myself last year, in terms of second places. I threw away the Leinster Boys and I was second in the Munster Boys but I just didn't finish anything off for some reason. At least my foursomes record has been pretty good - there's just something about team golf that gets me going."
Bowe hopes that his great love of the game will stand to him as he battles through school and college before deciding on his future.
"When I get through my Leaving and an accountancy degree I hope to know where my game is at and I can take it from there.
Obviously I'd love to play professional golf but I suppose I'll just have to take things step by step.
"I love reading everything about the swing, without getting too technical in my own game. It's a pity to miss the Close at my home course in Tramore because of my Leaving Cert, so whatever tournament is first on the calendar after that is my goal. I'm not even sure what tournaments I'll be playing in. I don't really know the Senior schedule."