Robbie Cannon might have to travel to next month’s Amateur Championship under his own steam but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t got something to bring to the Irish international set up this season.
The 34-year old career amateur left a host of Ireland’s top, ‘full-time’ amateurs in his wake at Royal Dublin on Sunday when he captured the Irish Amateur Open after four play-off holes, displaying the kind of focus and ‘professionalism’ that the younger guns will be hoping to display when they attempt to impress the Walker Cup selectors over the next three months.
There was surprise in some quarters when the Balbriggan man was not named among the six players nominated by the GUI to travel in the official party to Royal Cinque Ports and Prince’s for the Amateur Championshp from 17- 22 June.
In reality, the team was picked at lunchtime on Sunday and we understand that his achievement in winning the Irish Amateur Open champion will not go unrewarded.
Irish team captain Pádraig Hogan was impressed by Cannon’s peformance down the stretch but explained that he and his slectors had already made up their minds about up to four of the six players to travel to the Amateur Championship and completed their choice at midday on Sunday.
“We tend to pick it on Sunday on the day of the championship and we had three or four of them picked already but there were quite a few players in contention as you might imagine,” Hogan said. “We made a decision on when we were going to pick the team and we did it at the same time last year.”
Cannon, who is a qualified strength and conditioning coach, can be confident that as Irish Amateur Open champion many doors will open for him between now and the end of the season in terms of invitations to other events.
When it comes to preparation, Ireland’s younger stars could lot to learn from his way of going about his business.
“Robbie is so professional in everything he does,” Hogan said. “He is extremely fit, he is a sprint champion and he’s always looked after himself and he will never been wanting for fitness.
“He was fantastic coming down the stretch. He was very focussed and knew exactly what he had to do and the shot he hit off the bank on 18 in the three-hole playoff was fanstastic.
“I looked at the ball and I thought it had nestled and he would be knocking it down the left hand side but he took it on, made the perfect strike and was unlucky it didn’t finish closer to the hole. It was a very brave shot.”
The amateur calendar is now so packed that the GUI has to rotate its squad of senior players and send those it feels has the best chance of doing well in a particular event.
The Amateur Championship requires players who are not only playing well enough to come through strokeplay qualifying, but those who are proven performers in match play combat.
Ireland will still have more than a dozen players at the Amateur Championship field from 17 – 22 June with six travelling officially - Jack Hume (Rathsallagh), Dermot McElroy (Ballymena), Rory McNamara (Headfort), Kevin Phelan (Waterford Castle), Chris Selfridge (Moyola Park), Reeve Whitson (Mourne).
This is a particularly crucial time of the year for players hoping to impress either the Irish or the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup selectors with a large number of events taking place over the next few weeks.
17-19 May Welsh Amateur Open
18-19 May Mullingar Scratch Trophy
31 May-2 June Scottish Amateur Open Strokeplay
1-3 June East of Ireland Amateur Open
7-9 June St. Andrews Links Trophy
8-12 June Irish Amateur Close
17-22 June The Amateur Championship
26-29 June Brabazon Trophy
27-30 June Irish Open
“There are a lot of events between now and the European Championships and the Home Internationals,” the captain explained. “Some guys are playing in the Welsh Championship this week (Richie O’Donovan, Brian Casey, Harry Diamond, Rory McNamara, Jack Hume, Ian Brennan, Matt McAlpin, Eugene Smith, Jeff Hopkins), others are playing in Mullingar.
“Then it is a big week with the East of Ireland and around six players playing in the Scottish Amateur (Dermot McElroy, Rory McNamara, Richie O’Donovan, Cormac Sharvin, Reeve Whitson).
“We have six players in the St Andews Links Trophy (Brian Casey, Harry Diamond, Dermot McElroy, Rory McNamara, Richard O’Donovan, Reeve Whitson) rather than the Irish Close (at Connemara).”
There will also be a big Irish presence in the Brabazon Trophy with Casey, Diamond, Nicholas Grant, Geoff Lenehan, McElroy, McNamara, O’Donovan and Selfridge chosen during the West of Ireland Championship as the entry date closed on 18 April.
The performances of Rathsallagh’s Jack Hume over the past fortnight have not gone unnoticed by the Irish or Walker Cup selectors following his play-off defeat in the Lytham Trophy and fouth place finish at Royal Dublin, where he held the lead on the 72nd tee only to finish with a double bogey and miss out on the play-off by one.
“The Walker Cup selectors were extremely impressed with him and wanted to know where we had been hiding him,” Hogan said.
Top performances over the next six weeks will earn players a spot in the side for the European (Individual) Amateur Championship at Real Club de Golf el Prat near Barcelona from August 7-10.
As for Cannon’s performanace at Royal Dublin, his fitness certainly made the difference but one wonders if the likes of Hume will consider taking a caddie, or electric trolley in future championships.
One seasoned professional. who went out to watch the final round, was surprised to see the 19-year old from Rathsallagh pulling his own trolley at the end of a long day.
He was also amazed that so few players were eating or drinking water, despite the wind and cold.
Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy required medical attention between the first and second rounds, having played in the morning squalls in a tee-shirt and sweater.
He was seen by a doctor and cleared to go on and only missed out on a place in the play-off by a single shot, leaving him to wonder what might have been.
He played brilliantly but missed the cut as one of the players selected by the GUI for last year’s Irish Open at Royal Portrush.
This year there will be three players selected by the GUI to join Welshman Rhys Pugh, the winner of the European Amateur Championship over the Montgomerie Course last year, at Carton House from June 27-30.
We understand that Kevin Phelan and Gavin Moynihan are certain to play with the third spot up for grabs between Reeve Whitson and Jack Hume. Playing in the Irish Open and making the cut would be regarded as a major achievement - on a par with a top finish in the clashing Brabazon Trophy at Formby Golf Club.