There’s no shortage of high hopes and ambition at Mount Wolseley this week as the Sport Ireland supported Irish Challenge gets underway on Thursday.
With 19 aspiring professionals and four of Ireland’s leading amateurs in the field, the home contingent is out in force, hoping for a performance that could make their seasons.
Part of the European Challenge Tour, the importance of the Irish Challenge on the calendar is hugely significant especially for Team Ireland supported golfers.
Not only does a home event allow them to play in familiar surrounds, it enables Team Ireland Golf to trade starts with other Challenge Tour events and gives Irish golfers the opportunity to compete in events across the entire season.
This fact is not lost on Gavin Moynihan, the leading Irishman in the Road to Oman rankings heading into this week. The 22-year old gained his Challenge Tour card for next season after a runner-up spot earlier this year in Spain – that start coming directly from Team Ireland Golf.
“An event in Ireland is always great,” the Dubliner enthused after a meeting with Team Ireland Leader Des Smyth.
“The invites are huge, just for the schedule. You get at least eight starts before the year even begins. It’s just great for any player. That’s what I had this year. I knew I had these events.
“Obviously runner up in Spain was huge for my year. I basically got a full card out of it. I can play 80 per cent of the year now so yeah they’re huge.”
Moynihan is currently 27th in the Race to Oman with the top 15 securing full European Tour playing rights for 2018.
Smyth, who met with the Team Ireland players ahead of the event this week, is well aware of the hard work needed to progress on tour.
“A lot of these young players, as good as they are, will go through difficult periods where they are going to need help. I see these young guys coming through, and they’re very talented. From tee to green, there is very little that separates them from the stars we see on TV every week. Of course, they won’t all make it but they need time to get out there, to challenge themselves, to test themselves and see what they can do.
“These guys have one thing in common and they want to succeed on the tour and they want to get on the European Tour and be a success. That’s what we want for them.”
Also benefitting from Team Ireland Golf starts this week are three of the GUI’s leading amateurs: Stuart Grehan (Tullamore), Robin Dawson (Tramore) and Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint).
“It's fantastic to get an invite and I'm very grateful to Team Ireland for it,” said 21-year-old Dawson. “It will give me a good insight as to what is involved on the Challenge Tour and how my game is.”
Tullamore’s Stuart Grehan, who expects to turn professional after Q-School is not worried about the jump to the paid ranks: “To be honest a lot of the players are the same faces I’ve seen over the last number of years, so there’s not much difference.
“From what I’ve been told it’s pretty much the same thing, just on your good weeks you have to be really good. I’m just going to keep on doing what I’m doing and see how it goes.”
Campbell’s goals are very much focussed on making the three-man Eisenhower Trophy team in 2018 and representing Ireland at Carton House next September. However, the 31-year old hasn’t ruled out a career in the pro game.
“Next year I’d like to play the three-man team in Carton House, so that’s one of the objectives for next season. After that it will be down to form.”