Jack Hume is the red-hot favourite as the Flogas Irish Amateur Open tees off at Royal Dublin today and there’s no doubt in the minds of many of his rivals exactly why he’s 13/2 with the bookies to claim the Irish Open spot on offer for the winner.
Not only is he the highest ranked player in field at 10th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, he’s won twice this season, led the Irish in last week's Lytham Trophy and has a work ethic and course management ability that leaves his peers open-mouthed in admiration.
“I played with the winner of the Lytham Trophy for the first two rounds last week and he was impressive,” said Ardee’s Eugene Smith of Alfie Plant, who won by seven shots. “But in the third round the conditions were just brutal — high wind and sheets of rain — and I thought a 72 or a 74 would be a great score.
“Then Jack comes in with 68! There’s something special there.”
Galway’s Joe Lyons spotted it when he was hammered by a teenage Hume in the first round of the 2012 South of Ireland Championship.
“He beat me on the 13th,” Lyons said. “He is a different league to be honest.”
Smith went on: “You see him practicing down in Carton House all the time. I arrived one day and it was basically snowing. I was afraid to get out of the car and there was Jack Hume on the putting green. He seems to have the drive.”
Winning to order at Royal Dublin won’t be easy with a 120-strong field featuring 77 overseas players from 16 countries.
But having finished third, sixth and 20th for the last three years, Hume knows what it takes to defeat the old lady of Dollymount, even if it is firmer and faster than it has been in years.
“It’s about staying patient and sticking in and then waiting for that run where a burst of birdies can get you into a good position,” Hume said at an immaculate Royal Dublin. “You can see why Jordan Spieth does so well. He thinks and manages himself better than anybody else.”
Like Spieth, Hume is 22 and having missed out on qualifying for the Final Stage of Q-School last year by one stroke despite a closing 63, he’s got his sights firmly set on following his 2015 Waker Cup team mates Paul Dunne, Gary Hurley, Cormac Sharvin and Gavin Moynihan into the professional ranks.
“Paul Dunne doing so well has given everyone confidence,” said Hume, who was the leading Irish player at 13th in the Lytham Trophy last weekend. “We have all played with him so much and know he is a super player.
“But we know we can compete with him as well and if he is doing that, we know the standard is not as far away as people think.”
With England’s Bradley Moore and Marco Penge, 2014 winner Jamie Savage and his Scottish compatriot Connor Syme, the world No 52, some of the biggest threats, Hume won’t have it easy.
The home challenge will be very strong with a plethora of international and interprovincial stars all capable of going close.
Quite apart from teenager Kevin Le Blanc form the Island (tied third last year), Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy, Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell or Whitehead’s John Ross Galbraith, recently crowned West of Ireland champion Jonathan Yates has the game to beat all comers, including his club mate Hume.
Bursting with confidence and gunning to use his driving power to attack the Dollymount track after being shackled by the bunkers in last week’s Lytham Trophy, 22-year old Yates also wants to win that Irish Open place at The K Club on offer for the winner.
“I caddie there so I know it really well,” said Yates, whose power could be an important factor come Sunday.
As for Royal Dublin, where he was fifth behind Moynihan (now a pro) last year, he said: “The difference between here and Royal Lytham is monumental. Here at least you can stand up and be aggressive off the tee.
“The course really sets up well for me because it’s long and there’s room off the tee so I can go with the driver compared to last week, where it was back foot golf all the way.”
Still, it’s difficult to see many finishing ahead of Hume, especially on a course that grinds players into submission over 72 holes.
“Jack is the man to beat,” said Portmarnock’s Geoff Lenehan, who showed good form at Royal Lytham and St Annes ahead of a season he hopes will see him stake his claim to a place in the Irish team.
“He’s as good as anyone who is aspiring to be a tour professional. He has a great attitude, does all the right things and has proven himself time and again.
“What’s impressive? It’s his game management, his preparation, his attitude on the course. It’s all excellent. He’s just a top performer.
Campbell is chasing a win that would be a triple whammy.
The 29-year old hasn't given up on his dream of making it as a professional and if can add a massive title to his CV and with it, a place in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at The K Club, he’ll have made a huge step forward in his career.
“I’ve been close here the last three years — never outside the top 20 — so hopefully I can go closer,” said Campbell, who was 14th in the Lytham Trophy last weekend and hopeful he can impress the selectors and make the six-man European Championship team to play in France.
“I am playing a lot more consistently than in past years so hopefully I can have a chance.”
Campbell admits it’s going to be tough to beat world No 10 and title favourite Hume or his Naas clubmate Yates, the reigning West of Ireland champion, both of whom are hitting the ball well.
“You always need a wee bit of luck,” Campbell said. “But around here it’s game of patience and you have to ride it out and make those putts when it is needed.”
Winning that Irish Open place is a big incentive but so too is adding to his lone championship win in the East of Ireland two years ago.
“If you win here and play the Irish Open, that would secure a spot on the six man team for the Europeans,” said Campbell, who has won seven scratch cups since his ‘East’ win two years ago,
“I’ve been winning scratch cups and I had a good start to the year, getting to the semis of the West, but I haven’t put myself in as many winning positions as I would have liked since I won the East. So I am here to win.”
McElroy came close to victory at Royal Dublin two years ago and he’s determined to show that last week’s missed cut at Royal Lytham and St Annes was a blip.
He teed it up alongside John Ross Galbraith, Joe Lyons and title favourite Hume in practice, hoping to pick up some course management tips off the Irish No 1.
“I’ve a good record here,” McElroy said. “But Jack is the man on form. Strategy wise, he’s very good around a golf course, he plays very smart.”
Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship, Royal Dublin
- (0700/1051) J Fox (Portmarnock) C Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown) S Ryan (Royal Dublin)
- (0711/1102) S Hogan (Nenagh) B Daly (Edmondstown) N MacAndrew (Sco)
- (0722/1113) I O’Rourke (Royal Dublin) T Murray (Eng) K Harman (Wal)
- (0733/1124) C Purcell (Portmarnock) C Strickland (Eng) A Wilson (Wal)
- (0744/1135) S Carter (Royal Dublin) J Hausweiler (Ger) A McCormack (Castletroy)
- (0755/1146) N Brader (Por) T Mulligan (Co Louth) W Enefer (Eng)
- (0806/1157) R Mullarney (Galway) P Verlaar (Ned) T Bombosch (Ger)
- (0817/1219) C Campbell Jnr (Warrenpoint) M Boegel (Ger) S Gibson (Sco)
- (0828/1230) S Grehan (Tullamore) C Fyfe (Sco) V Lopes (Por)
- (0839/1241) J Hume (Naas) C Syme (Sco) B Moore (Eng)
- (0850/1252) C Braeunig (Ger) A Gleeson (Castle) L Johnston (Sco)
- (0901/1303) J Savage (Sco) D McElroy (Ballymena) J Thomson (Eng)
- (0912/1314) J Ruska (Cze) R Dawson (Tramore) R Neergaard-Peterson (Den)
- (0923/1325) R Lester (Hermitage) M Carradine (Sui) G-M Petrozzi (Eng)
- (0945/1336) K Attieh (KSA) N Schelling (Cze) G Collins (Rosslare)
- (0956/1347) J Hood Galgorm (Castle) A Grant (Dundalk) S Robins (Eng)
- (1007/1358) C Rafferty (Dundalk) B Kinsley (Sco) M Holzwarth (Ger)
- (1018/1409) E Smith (Ardee) R Nevin-Wharton (Eng) T Vahlenkamp (Ger)
- (1029/1420) G McDermott (Carton House) F Frederik Muller (Ger) D Hague (Eng)
- (1040/1431) M Reid Galgorm (Castle) O Clarke (Eng) M Hausweiler (Ger)
- (1051/0700) D Mallon (Dungannon) D Ramsay (Eng) G Fitzmaurice (Balcarrick)
- (1102/0711) B Anderson (Royal Dublin), J Whelan (Newlands) P Ruff (Eng)
- (1113/0722) G Bloor (Eng) M Shanahan (Castlemartyr) N Adank (Ger)
- (1124/0733) L Schuepbach (Sui) C Long (Eng) J Hickey (Cork)
- (1135/0744) D Holland (Castle) R Foley (Sui) S Whitaker (Eng)
- (1146/0755) S Flanagan (Co Sligo) F Davren (Sco) P Mullins (Wal)
- (1157/0806) E Griffin (Waterford) J Girao (Por) M Jordan (Eng)
- (1219/0817) C O’Rourke (Naas) S Lopez (Esp) T Gandy Isle of Man
- (1230/0828) O Edwards (Wal) M Penge (Eng) R Cannon (Balbriggan)
- (1241/0839) E Griffith (Wal) A Chapman (Eng) K Le Blanc (The Island)
- (1252/0850) C Fairweather (Knock) J Davidson (Wal) J Singh Brar (Eng)
- (1303/0901) C Ross (Sco) J Li (Eng) JR Galbraith (Whitehead)
- (1314/0912) J Yates (Naas) P Pineau (Fra) J Yule (Eng)
- (1325/0923) T McLarnon (Massereene) K Harman (Wal) J Newton (Eng)
- (1336/0945) B Firth (Eng) P Coughlan (Moate) N McKinstry (Cairndhu)
- (1347/0956) W Russell (Clandeboye) H Duggan (Kilkenny) L Grehan (Mullingar)
- (1358/1007) B Best (Rathmore) P Tomlinson (Eng) J Lyons (Galway)
- (1409/1018) M Ryan (New Ross) J Sugrue (Mallow) T Silva (Por)
- (1420/1029) J McDonnell (Forrest Little). T Hackett (Royal Dublin) M Kane (Whitehead)
- (1431/1040) C Butler (Kinsale) G Lenehan (Portmarnock) D O’Neill (Carton House).