Challenge Tour duo Kevin Phelan and Gavin Moynihan are hoping to take advantage of their precision and short game prowess when they enjoy “home” advantage in next month's Volopa Irish Challenge hosted by Mount Wolseley Hotel Spa and Golf Resort.
The former Walker Cup players are well down the Challenge Tour rankings after a frustrating years battling the bombers in a weekly birdie-fest on the second tier circuit.
Both admit they’ve lacked consistency but the also know that they can excel on a tighter, more technical test such as Mount Wolseley from September 8-11 .
Two-time Irish Amateur Open winner and Mount Wolseley touring professional Moynihan has made just three cuts from eight Challenge Tour starts this year and made just over €3,300 in winnings, meaning he's looking to Q-School rather than the Challenge Tour rankings as a route to the European Tour next year.
And it’s no surprise that his best result by far came when he got an invitation to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at The K Club in May and finished tied 36th, pocketing €26,800.
Moynihan said: “It’s hit it, find it and hit it again on the Challenge Tour. So that’s why the Irish Open was great - if you struck the ball well, you did well.
“On the Challenge Tour, you can play average and still do well if you hit it long. It can be a bit of a putting contest and some of the cuts are crazy — four, five under par or more.
“I was around 18th in South Africa and bogeyed three of the last five holes and ended up missing the cut.
“I missed the cut at Mount Wolseley last year too but I can’t wait to get back there. I’ll be heading for Q-School so this will be a great build up. I love the course because it’s a great all round test.”
Phelan played in two US Opens as an amateur but like Moynihan, he’s realised that his precision game is not rewarded on the Challenge Tour, where the “grip it and rip it” approach is rewarded.
“There is a lot less to separate the players compared to the main European Tour where the courses make the difference,” said Phelan who has learned to make more birdies but finds himself taking more risks and dropping more shots.
“It’s about making as many birdies as you can on the Challenge Tour, whereas on the main tour, par is sometimes a good score.
“If you don’t shoot three or four under each round on the Challenge Tour, you are losing ground and the courses tend to suit people who are as close to the hole as possible for their approaches, regardless of whether they are in the rough or the fairway.
“Being aggressive is my style from 150 yards and in, so it is just a case of making better decisions and hitting my seven and eight irons close when other guys are hitting wedges.”
Attached to Mount Wolseley’s sister course Mount Juliet — both are owned by the Tetrarch Group — Phelan's hoping to peak now as the biggest Challenge Tour purses are concentrated in the last six events.
“I missed a lot of cuts in two years on the main two and had a few big finishes,” Phelan said. "This year on Challenge Tour I’ve made nearly every cut but one bad round has cost me. I just need to string four rounds together and Mount Wolseley could be the place. it’s a super course.”
The idyllic and lush parkland course is sure to test every facet of the players’ games while the Challenge Tour provides the perfect opportunity for players turning professional to make their mark in the paid ranks with Martin Kaymer, Brooks Koepka, Olympic Champion Justin Rose and Open Championship winner Henrik Stenson. all making their mark on the circuit.
The very best of Ireland’s most promising young players will be teeing it up at Mount Wolseley as they take on the finest young players from across the globe.
With few opportunities left until the end of the season, the tournament represents one of the last chances for the players to ensure they finish the season in the top 15 of the Road to Oman Rankings and thereby earn graduation to the European Tour and the chance to fulfill lifelong ambitions.
Working in partnership with the Confederation of Golf in Ireland and Sport Ireland, Tetrarch Capital, the owners of Mount Wolseley Hotel Spa & Golf Resort, committed to host the Volopa Irish Challenge at Mount Wolseley over three consecutive years from 2015 - 2017, establishing this stunning Resort as a firm favourite for this prestigious event.
Redmond O’Donoghue, Chairman of the Confederation of Golf in Ireland, said: "The CGI and Sport Ireland are delighted to be associated with the Volopa Irish Challenge hosted by Mount Wolseley Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort, which will provide Team Ireland players with vital tournament exposure and opportunities to gain full playing rights on the Challenge and European Tours.
“Securing Tour starts for up and coming professional golfers is a crucial cog in the CGI's High Performance Programme, which aims to build on the excellent High Performance Programmes for amateur players administered by the Golfing Union of Ireland and the Irish Ladies Golf Union.
“I'd like to express my gratitude to Sport Ireland for their continued support, both in expertise and funding, of Team Ireland Golf.”
John Treacy, CEO Sport Ireland, said: “Playing in tournaments such as this is of huge benefit to the Irish golfers as they look to further their careers as professionals. I am delighted that Sport Ireland’s support of the Irish Challenge at Mount Wolseley will help give Ireland’s up and coming golf talent the opportunity to play on home soil against Europe’s top emerging players.”
Alain de Soultrait, European Challenge Tour Director, said: “It is fantastic news that the Challenge Tour will return to Mount Wolseley for the second year in succession. Ireland has produced numerous world-class golfers and possesses many of the finest golf courses on the planet.
"Mount Wolseley Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort is a fittingly stunning venue and I know how much all the players enjoyed the experience last year and are looking forward to returning.
“A lot of hard work has gone into making this tournament happen and we extend our sincere thanks to Mount Wolseley Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort and Tetrarch Capital for backing this event, as well as the CGI and Sport Ireland for their passion and vision in giving Ireland’s up and coming golf stars a chance to make that crucial breakthrough in professional golf. We look forward to another great week in Carlow.”
Kate Harrison, Resort Manager at Mount Wolseley, said: “Mount Wolseley Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort is one of Ireland’s finest destination resorts. The Management Team at Mount Wolseley is thrilled that we can bring such a prestigious professional golf event of international stature to our famous Christy O’Connor Jnr-designed Championship course over three consecutive years.
"We are really looking forward again to showcasing our wonderful Resort and our renowned hospitality to Europe’s next generation of young golfers and to the large visitor numbers we expect for the event.”
Michael McElligott, Chief Executive of Tetrarch Capital, said: “The Challenge Tour players delighted in the test that our Championship course at Mount Wolseley presented last year and can look forward to a fantastic event again this year.
"All players and visitors will experience another warm welcome at Mount Wolseley Resort, which was rewarded the Best Golf Resort in Leinster at the Golfers Guide to Ireland Awards 2013.
"A tournament like this does not happen overnight and we must thank the CGI and Sport Ireland for putting their weight behind this event, we look forward to working closely with the Challenge Tour through our hosting of this very exciting tournament this year and again in 2017.”