Spirit of the South alive as ex-pro Kehoe heads back to old stomping ground

Justin Kehoe is enjoying life as an amateur golfer. Picture courtesy Justin Kehoe/Facebook

Just like Paul Dunne, Justin Kehoe knows what it’s like to shoot 78 in the Open Championship.

But the difference between the Greystones amateur and the Birr man, who returns to action in amateur championship golf in the South of Ireland at Lahinch today after a 12-year absence, is that he did it in the first round at Carnoustie in 2007 and missed the cut comfortably after a 79 on day two.

It was that 2007 Open that gave Padraig Harrington his first major and inspired youngsters like Dunne to believe that Irish players were capable of achieving great things in the game.

Kehoe did more than his bit in the amateur game, winning the “South” in 2001 with a 6 and 4 demolition of Stephen Browne before going on to turn professional.

Reinstated as an amateur three years ago, he understands better then most the true enormity of Dunne’s incredible achievement over the Old Course, where rounds of 69, 69 and 66 sent him out in the final group with a share of the lead.

“It is incredible what Paul did. Imagine making the final group on the last day of The Open!” said 35-year old Kehoe, who played professional golf for six years before reality hit home and he decided to become a chartered accountant, qualifying last December. “What an achievement. It is the stuff of boyhood dreams. Incredible golf.”

The Shinrone native is playing off scratch again and dipped his toes into the competitive waters again this year, purely for fun.

“I played a few scratch Cups this year and Barton Shield and Senior Cup for  Limerick but that’s about it,” he said. “It’s going to be a new experience for me — all over  again.

“I got ot he quarterfinals in 1998 and 2000 and won in 2001 and got the semis again in 2003, so I have some happy memories of Lahinch.”

Kehoe’s comprehensive win over Browne 14 years ago is still fondly remembered, more for the post-golf singsong than the final itself.

“That was an exceptional day for me,” Kehoe said modestly. “Every putt I looked at went in and even though Stephen might have been a couple under par for the 14 holes we played, I think I had an eagle at the second and seven birdies. 

“I don’t think you’d be able to do that at Lahinch any more because it has obviously changed quite a lot since all the course improvements came into play in 2003.” 

The post-dinner sing-song, where Kehoe played the piano and Browne, son of the tenor Edmund Browne and a trained baritone himself, sang along during that evening’s celebrations, has become the stuff of legend.

“My role has been somewhat overstated,” added Kehoe with chuckle. “I have a reputation for being something of a pianist which I don’t deserve. I might have played a couple of songs and Stephen joined in for one, maybe for Danny Boy. He was  the star attraction, obviously and I was just bungling along.”

Kehoe was far from a bungling amateur and like Browne, he played as a full time amateur for two years and turned professional in 2003

But he has no huge ambitions of upsetting the leading lights chasing international selection in Lahinch.

While Dunne, Cormac Sharvin, Gary Hurley, Jack Hume and Gavin Moynihan, at the Walker Cup squad session at Royal Lytham and St Annes and several other top players resting, many more are chasing the historic title and places in the Irish team that will defend the Home International title at Royal Portrush next month.

Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell and Stackstown’s Richard Bridges are keen to impress Irish tean captain Tony Goode and his selectors and keep their places.

But with one or two spots up for grabs, the likes of the Island’s Paul McBride, Eanna Griffin (Waterford), Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock), Rowan Lester (Hermitage), North of Ireland runner up Gary Collins (Rosslare), Stuart Grehan (Tullamore) and Robin Dawson (Faithlegg) could come into the reckoning if they perform in Lahinch.

Kehoe, who regained his amateur status in 2012, feels suitably chastened about where he stands against the modern amateur given Dunne’s otherworldly performance at St Andrews.

And he has no gripe with the fact that so many want to try their hand at the pro game with up to eight or nine of Ireland’s best, led by Dunne and Moynihan, contemplating the move in September.

“I wouldn’t discourage anyone from turning professional — there is no set route as we have seen from the likes of Ian Poulter, who was a five handicap assistant, or Greg Norman, who was a later starter. 

“But when you see what Paul Dunne did in the Open or how Graeme McDowell or Sergio Garcia won in their fourth starts, in my humble opinion it’s a sign of great things to come.”

Kehoe may still prove a handful should he make the Top 64 in strokeplay qualifying for Friday’s first round of matchplay combat. 

“I have had my amateur career already and I am just going to Lahinch because I have some time to play golf,”  he said.  “I am a long time out of the game and I don’t have any great expectations.” 

South of Ireland Amateur Open, Lahinch Golf Club

Strokeplay qualifying - Wednesday 22nd, Thursday 23rd July

  1. 07.00 11.20 Eoghan Long (Monsktown) David McMahon (Tralee) James Monaghan (The Royal Dublin) 
  2. 07.10 11.30 Paul O’Neill (Shannon) Dylan Brophy (Castle Knock) Scott Campbell (Ballyclare) 
  3. 07.20 11.40 Conor Coyne (Yougal) Karl McCormack (Portarlington) David Finn (Doneraile) 
  4. 07.30 11.50 Robert Farrell (New Ross) Kevin Power (Kilkenny) Michael Reddan (Limerick) 
  5. 07.40 12.00 Shane Whooley (Muskerry) Peter Kane (Ashbourne) Peter Meaney (Cahir Pk) 
  6. 07.50 12.10 Sean Alley (Co Tipperary) Daniel Brennan (Shannon) William Hanna (Kilkeel) 
  7. 08.00 12.30 Andrew McCormack (Newcastle West) Mark Morrissey (Mount Wolseley) Michael O’Kelly (Limerick) 
  8. 08.10 12.40 John Greene (Portmarnock) Richard Knightly (The Royal Dublin) Ronan Mullane (Dromoland Castle) 
  9. 08.20 12.50 Jamie Sutherland (Galgorm Castle) Simon Bryan (Delgany) Mathew Kane (Whitehead) 
  10. 08.30 13.00 Michael Buggy (Castlecomer) Barry Daly (Edmondstown) Eddie Power (Kilkenny) 
  11. 08.50 13.10 John Hickey (Cork) Dan Murphy (Portarlington) Karl Purcell (Dun Laoghaire) 
  12. 09.00 13.20 Paul Buckley (Kanturk/Australia) Colm Crowley (Woodbrook) Gerard Dunne (Co Louth) 
  13. 09.10 13.30 Ian Spillane (Mallow) Dean McMahon (Castletroy) Greg Mungoven (Headfort) 
  14. 09.20 13.40 Alan Lowry (Esker Hills) John Conroy (Bray) Stuart Bleakley (Shandon Park) 
  15. 09.30 13.50 Gavin McKenna (Fortwilliam) Tiarnan McLarnon (Masserene) Conor O’Rourke (Naas) 
  16. 09.40 14.00 Pat Murray (Limerick) Barry Anderson (The Royal Dublin) Michael Reid (Galgorm Castle) 
  17. 09.50 14.20 Gareth Lappin (Belvoir Park) Paul McBride (The Island) Tony Cleary (Woodstock) 
  18. 10.00 14.30 Eanna Griffin (Waterford) Geoffrey Lenehan (Portmarnock) Jeff Hopkins (The Royal Dublin) 
  19. 10.10 14.40 Shaun Carter (The Royal Dublin) Keith Egan (Carton House) Rowan Lester (Hermitage) 
  20. 10.20 14.50 Gavin Smyth (Clonmel) Michael Horan (Birr) Des Morgan (New Forest) 
  21. 10.40 15.00 Shane Hogan (Nenagh) Seamus Cullen (Slieve Russell) Mark Mullen (Rosslare) 
  22. 10.50 15.10 Niall Gorey (Palmerstown Stud) Paul McCarthy (Mallow) Jack Pierse (Portmarnock) 
  23. 11.00 15.20 Robert Cannon (Balbriggan) Ben Corfee (USA) Shane McGlynn (Carton House) 
  24. 11.10 15.30 Gary O’Flaherty (Cork) Sean Ryan (The Royal Dublin) Stephen Watts (Cairndhu) 
  25. 11.20 15.40 Keith Daniels (Loughrea) Ryan Long (Cairndhu) Mark MacGrath (Limerick) 
  26. 11.30 15.50 Declan McInerney (Lahinch) James Sugrue (Mallow) Alan Purcell (Adare Manor) 
  27. 11.40 07.00 Jamie Fletcher (Warrenpoint) Daniel Hallissey (Muskerry) Liam Hutchinson (The Royal Dublin) 
  28. 11.50 07.10 Keith Murphy (Charlesland) Philip Spratt (West Waterford) Pat Fitzpatrick (Kanturk) 
  29. 12.00 07.20 Robert Brazill (Naas) Dale Jackson (Massereene) Neil McKinstry (Cairndhu) 
  30. 12.10 07.30 Eoghan O’Loughlin (Spanish Pt) Paul O’Sullivan (Bray) Brian Doran (Palmerstown Stud) 
  31. 12.30 07.40 Ross Dutton (Tandragee) Declan King (Tramore) Jamie O’Shea (Shannon) 
  32. 12.40 07.50 Gary Collins (Rosslare) Stuart Grehan (Tullamore) Robin Dawson (Faithlegg) 
  33. 12.50 08.00 Colm Campbell jnr (Warrenpoint) Gary McDermott (Carton House) Richard Bridges (Stackstown) 
  34. 13.00 08.10 Daniel Holland (Castle) Thomas O’Connor (Athlone) Colin Fairweather (Knock) 
  35. 13.10 08.20 Jack McDonnell (Forrest Little) Nicholas Duggan (Dromoland Cst) Graham Nugent (Kilkenny) 
  36. 13.20 08.30 Colin Woodroofe (Blainroe) Sean Doyle (Athlone) Darragh Hogan (Killeen Castle) 
  37. 13.30 08.50 Stephen Healy (Carton House) Tristan O’Rourke (Nenagh) Liam Grehan (Mullingar/NUIM) 
  38. 13.40 09.00 Jake Whelan (Newlands) Jonathon Breen (Kirkistown Castle) Robbie Pierse (Grange) 
  39. 13.50 09.10 Justin Kehoe (Limerick) Steffan O’Hara (Co Sligo) Peter Sheehan (Ballybunion) 
  40. 14.00 09.20 Cian Geraghty (Laytown/B’town) Tom Griffin (England) Aaron Moore (Adare Manor) 
  41. 14.20 09.30 David Foy (Laytown/B’town) Paul Murphy (Rosslare) Mark Timmins (Coollattin) 
  42. 14.30 09.40 Stephen Barker (Mourne) Ted Collins (Dun Laoghaire) Ronan O’Grady (Tullamore) 
  43. 14.40 09.50 Matthew McClean (Balmoral) Kelan McDonagh (The Royal Dublin) Darragh Smith (Castle) 
  44. 14.50 10.00 Stephen Walsh (Portmarnock) Tommy O’Driscoll (Killarney) Thomas Neenan (Lahinch) 
  45. 15.00 10.10 Gary McGrane (The Royal Dublin) Marc Nolan (Delgany) David Reddan jnr (Nenagh) 
  46. 15.10 10.20 John Reynolds (Dungarvan) Sean Walsh (Carton House/NUIM) Alexander Purdy (Ballyclare) 
  47. 15.20 10.40 Ross Kenny (Millicent) Jason O’Leary (Dromoland Castle) Joe Lyons (Galway) 
  48. 15.30 10.50 Owen O’Brien (Limerick) Eoin O’Connor (Ballybunion) Tony O’Leary (Wexford) 
  49. 15.40 11.00 Paul Behan (St Annes) Adam Doran (Ardee) Jack Walsh (Caslte) 
  50. 15.50 11.10 Sean Poucher (Limerick) Edward Stack (Ballybunion) Evan Farrell (Ardee) 

 Reserves 1 M Horan (Birr) To M20 instead of Ronan Mullarney 2 Alan Purcell (Adare Manor) To M26 instead of David Ryan 3 Mark Timmins (Coollattin) To M41 instead of Rory Williamson 4 Ronan O’Grady (Tullamore) to M42 instead of Fergal Deasy 5 Karl McCormack (Portarlington) to M 3 instead of Eoghan O’Donnell 6 Ronan Mullane (Dromoland Castle) M8 instead of Kyle McCarron  7 Cathal Nolan (Galway) w/d 8 Peter Kane (Ashbourne) to M5 instead of Barry Reddan 9 Nicholas Duggan (Dromoland Castle) M35 instead of Daniel Coyle 10 Tristan O’Rourke (Nenagh) M37 instead of Eugene Smith  11 Eric Byrne (Birr) 12 Darragh Flynn (Carton House) 13 Stefan Greenberg (Tandragee) 14 Alastair McQuillian (Cushendall) 15 Ruairi O’Connor (Co Sligo) 16 Ryan O’Doherty (Enniscrone) 17  David O’Driscolll (Ballybunion) 18 Brian Gilligan (Woodstock) 19 Darren O’Sullivan (Tralee) 20 Jonathan Greer (Greenisland) 21 Bob Loftus (Lahinch) 22  John Richard (France) 23 Alan Harrington (Cork)   Updated 21.7.15