Lavelle sets up Irish Open double

By Brian Keogh

Big-hitting cabinet-maker Michael Lavelle faces a 1,500 mile dash from Malta to Royal Dublin for his amateur swansong this week.

But the former Irish long-driving champion, who once built cabinets for rock stars Oasis at Supernova Heights, can’t wait to make his pro debut in next week’s Irish Open at Adare Manor.

The Belmullet bomber, 33, will turn pro after the Irish Amateur Open and head for Adare to take up a sponsor’s invite.

And to pull it off he faces a mad-cap flight to Luton tonight (Thurs) followed by a 6.30 am connection to Dublin and a sprint to the first tee for his 10.30 am start in his last amateur event tomorrow (Fri).

In Malta for a family wedding, Lavelle said: “I’ll have no real sleep. But if I get over the first round I’ll be okay. I prefer it that way. If I had a late tee time, I’d probably start getting tired with all the waiting around.”

A plus two handicapper, Lavelle has decided to swap the scroll saw for the sand wedge by taking the plunge into the professional ranks at next week's Irish Open.

And he can't wait to strut his stuff alongside Ryder Cup stars Padraig Harrington and Lee Westwood at Adare Manor.

Guaranteed at least 10 starts on the satellite Europro Tour, Lavelle said: “It would be nice to go out with a bang in the amateur game this week.

“But I can’t wait for the Irish Open. I’d love to make the cut, pick up a win on the Europro Tour this year and then go for my tour card at the European Tour Qualifying School in September.”

At 33, Lavelle is a late-starter in the pro game but he has a secret weapon at his disposal that could serve him well on tour - his massive length off the tee.

In 2003, he finished 42nd in the REMAX World Long Driving Championship in Nevada.

As a raw five-handicapper playing with his mates on the links at Belmullet, he entered the Irish qualifiers and blasted a 386-yard rocket down the first at Rosses Point which would have gone further if it hadn’t bounced off the stone wall behind the green.

Then, In the All Ireland finals at Glasson, he launched a 321-yard special into a stiff wind to take his place in the finals at Mesquite in Nevada.

He confessed that he has now toned down the big-hitting to get more accuracy off the tee and it showed when he reached the last eight of the Easter’s West of Ireland championship.

He said: “I did alright in Nevada and I was happy enough but I am not built for that. You’d have to be about 6’ 4” or 6’5” and built like a tank to do well.

“My ball flight has changed. I used to hit big, high draws and now I hit low cuts to get it into play. I am a lot more accurate off the tee than I used to be.

“I still go at it hard but I go at it with a cut. I need a driver that is really stiff and with a high kick point to keep the ball down.”

Lavelle broke his favourite driver shaft in the first round of the Europro Q-School finals last month, crashing to an 81 in round two but still doing enough to make sure he gets 10 starts this term.

As a skilled cabinet maker, his work is so good that Noel Gallagher of rock band Oasis fame hired him to build cupboards and shelves for his famous Supernova Heights mansion in London.

Lavelle joked: “Some of the work I did was in Hello Magazine. My last brush with fame.”

If he finds the fairways at Royal Dublin and Adare Manor, it won't be his last.