Gavin Moynihan had his late coach Hugh Jackson whispering his final swing tip in his ear as he came through the toughest days of his golfing life and cruised through the First Stage of the European Tour Qualifying School in Portugal.
As Derry's Michael McGeady closed with a super, five under 66 at Golf d’Hardelot in France to finish tied eighth and progress to next month’s Second Stage, rookie pro Moynihan listened to the final tip from his lifetime coach “Jacko”, who tragically passed away after collapsing during the Connemara Pro-Am on Sunday.
“I found out on Sunday that Hugh had passed away,” said 20-year old Moynihan, who had been coached by the popular Donabate-=based coach since he was seven.
“I was just playing a practice round and I just looked at my phone on the seventh tee and saw I had a few missed calls and I read the texts.
"I couldn’t believe it. My legs almost buckled under me when I heard. It was tough because I had only been talking to him 36 hours before I came here, saying we’d get a game in a few weeks.
“It was tough to hear to be honest but life is like that and you have to deal with it.”
Moynihan overcame a tough start to open with a 72 and then added a brace of four under 68s befor eclosing with a 71 to finish tied fifth at Ribagolfe near Lisbon, where 22 players moved on to the Second Stage, scheduled for Spain early next month.
“He couldn’t get to the Walker Cup but I talked to him every night or every second night about how I was playing and how everyone was doing,” the Island man added. "He loved it.
“It was just tough because Sunday and Monday are the two practice days and those were as tough a few days as I have ever experienced in golf.
“He just said the right things before you played a round. Some coaches give you four or five things to work on by Jacko gave you one simple thing.
“I haven’t been it driving well for the last few weeks and I just thought of one little thing he said to me, ’Take it more inside’, and I drove it well all week.
“It’s just little simple things like that he did — real old school. He really helped me out this week and I remembered he told me to just take it back more on the inside. I did that this week and it was perfect. Still, it’s terribly sad that he’s gone. We just have to move on and deal with it.”
Moynihan was pleased with his game as he finsihed on nune under par, a massive 11 strokes behind runaway winner Linus Gillgreen of Sweden.
“It was a tough day today,” he said after making three birdies and two bogeys. "The scoring was quite good but they were tough pins to be honest. I didn’t play my best but I got it around. That was the objective - get it around and get out of here.
“Q-School is tough and everyone is good so you just have to come out here and play well. I didn’t play my best but it was good to get through after a tough week.”
McGeady finished seven shots behind French amateur Robin Roussell on six under in France where 25 qualified on one over or better. Golf d’Hardelot scores
But there was no luck for the rest of the Irish in action alongside Moynihan in Portugal. Ribagolfe scores
Balllyliffin’s Brendan McCarroll closed with a two under 70 but finished tied 27th, two shots shy of the qualifying mark on one under par after a bogey at his ninth and a triple bogey at his 10th hole all but undid the benefit of five birdies in his first seven holes.
Limerick’s Tim Rice needed a 65 but had to settle for a 69 that left him four shots short on one under in a share of 38th.
Twenty-eight Irish players entered First Stage and of the 26 who have played so far, just 11 have made it to Second Stage — Moynihan, McGeady, Jonny Caldwell, amateurs Colm Campbell and Jack Hume, Brian Casey, Alan Dunbar, Gary Hurley, Richard Kilpatrick, Rory McNamara and Paul Dunne.
The Island's David Rawluk and North of Ireland Amateur champion John Ross Galbraith try their luck in the final First Stage qualifier — Section D at Frilford Heath — next week.
EUROPEAN TOUR QUALIFYING SCHOOL 2015 - IRISH ENTRIES FOR FIRST STAGE
- Richard BRIDGES DID NOT QUALIFY
- Jonathan CALDWELL Clandeboye GC Qualified
- Colm CAMPBELL JNR (AM) Qualified
- Brian CASEY Headfort GC Qualified
- Alan DUNBAR Team Ireland Qualified
- Gary HURLEY West Waterford GC Qualified
- Richard KILPATRICK Banbridge GC Qualified
- Dermot MCELROY (AM) Ballymena GC DID NOT QUALIFY
- Rory MCNAMARA La Cala Resort Qualified
- Richard O’DONOVAN Lucan GC DID NOT QUALIFY
- Simon WARD Belvoir Park DID NOT QUALIFY
- Stephen GRANT Mount Juliet GC DID NOT QUALIFY
- Ciaran BOGGAN Co Meath Golf Club DID NOT QUALIFY
- Eamonn BRADY Clontarf GC DID NOT QUALIFY
- JD GUINEY Ballybunion GC DID NOT QUALIFY
- Peter MCGIBNEY DID NOT QUALIFY
- Richard WELDON Killeen Castle GC DID NOT QUALIFY
- Reeve WHITSON Royal County Down G.C. DID NOT QUALIFY
- Paul DUNNE Qualified
- Jack HUME (AM) Naas GC Qualified
- Michael McGEADY Northwest GC Qualified
- David CAREY DID NOT QUALIFY
- Jonathan MALLON DID NOT QUALIFY
- Brendan McCARROLL Team Ireland DID NOT QUALIFY
- Gavin MOYNIHAN The Island GC Qualified
- Tim RICE Limerick GC DID NOT QUALIFY
- John Ross GALBRAITH (AM) Whitehead
- David RAWLUK The Island GC
- No Irish