Rathmore’s Alan Dunbar believes his hopes of making this year’s Walker Cup team have been damaged by what he described as a “stupid” decision by the Golfing Union of Ireland not to take up its option of four exemptions for this week’s prestigious St Andrews Links Trophy.
The 21-year old, who won the St Andrews Links title two years ago, heads the betting for the East of Ireland Championship at Baltray today when he believes he should be trying to impress the R&A selectors alongside 13 members of the 16-strong Walker Cup squad at the Home of Golf.
Dunbar said: “I think it’s stupid. You would think (the GUI) would want their players to play Walker Cup and have the best chance possible, but clearly not.”
Portstewart’s Paul Cutler is the only Irish Walker Cup candidate in the field in Scotland, having entered as an individual for an event ranked second only to the British Amateur Championship in terms of its importance.
Dunbar, who plays off plus 2.4, narrowly failed to make the plus-2.5 handicap cut off for St Andrews and ended up as fourth reserve for an event that began yesterday.
“The St Andrews Links Trophy is the second biggest tournament and if you have a good week there, it is always going to boost your Walker Cup chances,” Dunbar added. “A top five or a top 10 there would be almost bigger than winning here.
“I entered it and one of the St Andrews Links people saw me on the reserve list and rang the GUI and asked them if they wanted to use their exemptions and they still said no.”
Both Dunbar and the St Andrews Links Trust expressed dismay this week at the GUI’s decision not to take up its allocation of four nominations reserved for each of the “Home” countries as the event clashes with the “East”.
However, the new GUI General Secretary Pat Finn, explained that while he felt sympathy for Dunbar, his hands were tied by Union policy.
“We don’t send player or nominate players for events that clash with our own ones. In this case the St Andrews Links clashes with the East of Ireland and in order to strengthen it and encourage players to compete in the East we don’t use nominations or wouldn’t send a squad to the St Andrews Links Trophy.
“If the St Andrews Links didn’t clash with the East we would almost certainly have it as an event on our High Performance calendar. Ordinarily we send players to events such as the Lytham Trophy or the British Amateur
“The bottom line is that when you have a decision of Central Council made not to nominate or send a squad to events that clash you simply can’t do it, regardless of what the circumstances are.”
He added: “It is a very unusual one this year where you have got a past champion not making the handicap ballot and not getting into the field other than by having a country nominate a player, in this case with the four nominations that we can’t use. It’s just Union policy and that is the way that it is.”
Just three of the 16 players invited to take part in last month’s Walker Cup panel session at Royal Aberdeen are not at St Andrews and all are Irish.
Dunbar and Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy will be at Baltray while Florida based Kevin Phelan is on duty for his college in the US and does not return to Europe until the British Amateur last this month.
Dunbar’s absence from St Andrews could have been avoided had he not lost a couple of “point ones” recently as he continues to make small adjustments to his swing.
“My game is not too bad but I am still going through a couple of swing changes which might have forced me to sacrifice form in a few Irish events,” Dunbar said. “Hopefully it will click in now over the next few weeks with the British Amateur and the Brabazon Trophy coming up.
“I’ve just got a couple of technical things I’m trying to fix. The club head is a bit too open at the top and I am just trying to square it up and obviously it feels like I am taking it back really shut. So coming down it feels totally shut but it is not. It just takes a bit of getting used to. I am working on it with Seamus Duffy at the Darren Clarke Golf Academy.
“I am obviously thinking about the Walker Cup. I’d like to play on the team but it is not the end of the world. Obviously I want to get on the team and play well on it but if I don’t make it, I don’t make it.”
Dunbar’s only option now is to try win the East at a fast-running Baltray, where he is the 8/1 bookies’ favourite in the 156-man field ahead of Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy, another Walker Cup candidate, Limerick’s Pat Murray and 2008 winner Eoin Arthurs from Forrest Little.
The top 51 players after Sunday’s second round will qualify for Monday’s 36-hole finale.
East of Ireland Amateur Open, Co. Louth GC
1st tee/10th tee
7.30 (12.30) D Murray (Skerries), C Campbell (Warrenpoint), C Rafferty (Greenore)
7.39 (12.39) A McCloy (Ballymena), A Lynch (Royal Tara), B Fennelly (R. Dublin/NUIM)
7.48 (12.48) D O’Donovan (Muskerry), W Hanna (Kilkeel), P O’Leary (Lucan)
7.57 (12.57) C Doran (Banbridge), A Dowling (Hermitage), I O’Rourke (Cork)
8.06 (1.06) A Condren (Greystones), M Hammond (Moyola Park), S O’Connor (Skerries)
8.15 (1.15) H Diamond (Belvoir Park), G Lawlor (Newbridge), K Purcell (Dun Laoghaire)
8.24 (1.24) A Kearney (Castlerock), G Smyth (Clonmel), C O’Rourke (Naas/NUIM)
8.33 (1.33) J Lyons (Birr), R Gribben (Warrenpoint), R Weldon (Killeen Castle)
8.42 (1.42) D Crowe (Dunmurry), B McSweeney (Woodbrook), A Kiernan (Forrest Little)
8.51 (1.51) JD McGinn (L’town & B’town), G O’Flaherty (Cork), T McLarnon (Masserene)
9.00 (2.0) S Crowe (Dunmurry), R Durnin (L’town & B’town), D Lally (Mullingar)
9.09 (2.09) C Moulds (Lisburn), D King (Tramore), J Dillon (Headfort)
9.18 (2.18) D O’Neill (Carton House), C Sharvin (Ardglass), S McGlynn (South County)
12.30 (7.30) D Reilly (Westmanstown), C Boggan (Co. Meath), P Cullen (Royal Tara)
12.39 (7.39) R McCarthy (The Island), K Crowley (Lee Valley), G Kelly (Co. Louth/UCD)
12.48 (7.48) P Sheehy (Newcastle West), S Morrison (City of Derry), I Brennan (Greenore)
12.57 (7.57) J Monaghan (The Island), D Coyle (Co. Louth), J Hume (Rathsallagh)
1.06 (8.06) R Leonard (Banbridge), R O’Donovan (Lucan), B Walton (The Island)
1.15 (8.15) S Ward (Co. Louth), C Martin (Kilkenny), K McDonagh (Athlone/NUIM)
1.24 (8.24) J Fox (Portmarnock), R McNamara (Headfort), J Greene (Carlow)
1.33 (8.33) D Ruddy (Co. Tipperary), J Richardson (Ryl. Portrush), R Walsh (Kilkenny)
1.42 (8.42 D Loftus (Swinford), M Durcan (Co. Sligo), R Cannon (L’town & B’town)
1.51 (8.51) R Mackie (Waterkloof SA), D Beattie (Castlerock), S Barry (L’town & B’town)
2.00 (9.00) J Hiluta (Chelmsford), D O’Connor (Athlone), S Walsh (Baltinglass/UCD)
2.09 (9.09) J Carvill (Warrenpoint), JM Hall (Whittlebury Park), M Brett (Portmarnock)
2.18 (9.18) M Buggy (Castlecomer), D Carroll (Grange), D Hallissey (Muskerry).
10th tee/1st tee
7.30 (12.30) D F Coghlan (Royal Dublin), G Lenehan (Portmarnock), M Mullen (Wexford)
7.39 (12.39) S Bryan (Delgany), G Bohill (Co. Louth), J Hopkins (Skerries)
7.48 (12.48) T McGowan (Strandhill/NUIM), S Ryan (Royal Dublin), N Grant (Knock)
7.57 (12.57) W Telford (Rathmore), E Arthurs (Forrest Little), C Molloy (Ardee)
8.06 (1.06) P Murray (Limerick), A Dunbar (Rathmore), E McCormack (Galway)
8.15 (1.15) L Lennox (Moyola Park), D Morgan (Mullingar), B Anderson (Co. Sligo/NUIM)
8.24 (1.24) D McElroy (Ballymena), N Gorey (Muskerry), A Hogan (Newlands)
8.33 (1.33) G McDermott (Co. Sligo), D Murphy (Portarlington), G McGrane (Royal Dublin)
8.42 (1.42 R Whitson (Mourne), C O’Malley (Westport), B Casey (Headfort)
8.51 (1.51) C Selfridge (Knock), S Carter (Stackstown/NUIM), L Ashby (Killerig)
9.00 (2.0) D Sweeney (Westmanstown), M McGinley (Grange), C Geraghty (L’town & B’town)
9.09 (2.09) G Mungovan (Headfort), A Doran (Ardee), B McCormack (Castle Barna)
9.18 (2.18) A Duffy (Royal Tara), R McCormack (Naas), N O’Hare (Castleknock)
12.30 (7.30) E Smith (Ardee), M O’Toole (Lucan), P Small (Bangor)
12.39 (7.39) R Bridges (Stackstown), E O’Sullivan (Island), B Ronan (Co. Louth)
12.48 (7.48) S Barry (Lee Valley), D Holland (Castle/UCD), K Shannon (Greenore)
12.57 (7.57) E Stack (Ballybunion), R Kenny (Woodlands), G Dunne (Seapoint)
1.06 (8.06) P O’Kane (Moyola Park), G McAuley (Dunmurry), D Downie (Sutton)
1.15 (8.15) P Purdy (Shandon Park), M Duffy (Naas), D Barry (Mahon)
1.24 (8.24) T O’Connor (Athlone), G Boyd (Donaghadee), A Kelly (Charleville)
1.33 (8.33) G McGee (Malone), C Glynn (Carton House), K Cummings (Elm Park)
1.42 (8.42) C Fairweather (Knock), C Akers (Bankstown, AUS), S McCarthy (Black Bush)
1.51 (8.51) C Robinson (Largs), G Moynihan (The Island), J Keenan (Old Conna)
2.00 (9.0) K Mackenzie (Bruntsfield Lnks), S O’Connor (Carton House), L Harnett (Milltown)
2.09 (9.09) J Connolly (Masserene), D Manifold (Rathsallagh), D Foy (L’town & B’town)
2.18 (9.18) B Corcoran (Roganstown), C McGrogan (Newbridge), J Pierse (Grange).