Dermot McElroy is determined to break his championship duck when the Irish Amateur Open gets under way at Royal Dublin today.
The 20-year old Ballymena star is looking to a bright future in the professional ranks but while he is not quite sure when he will take the plunge, he wants to leave the amateur game with a Major on his CV and this could be his week.
Seventh in the Lytham Trophy last Sunday, he's keeping his fingers crossed that his putting is sharp and he's ready for some revenge too having missed out on last year's playoff by a single shot.
With West Waterford's Gary Hurley pulling out of Royal Dublin due to exam pressures despite his fourth place finish at Royal Lytham, McElroy is the leading Irish contender for the title alongside the likes of Mourne's Reeve Whitson, Headfort's Rory McNamara and West of Ireland champion Jack Hume
“It could have been a different story at Lytham if I had holed my chances inside eight feet,” said McElroy, who like Hume, missed the playoff by just one shot last year. “But I’m very happy with my game going to Royal Dublin.”
Hume believes he’s ready to deal with everything mother nature can throw at him and become the first player for 58 years to complete the double of “the West” and the Irish Amateur Open.
With 120 players from 19 nations, including a 70-strong overseas invasion, bracing itself for west winds forecast to gust over 30 mph, the championship looks wide open.
But after breaking his senior championship duck at Rosses Point last month, Naas ace Hume (20) believes he’s ready for anything and he’s more determined than ever after a 72nd hole mistake cost him a place in last year’s playoff, won by Balbriggan’s Robbie Cannon.
“I feel I’m improving all the time and I think I’m stronger as a stroke player than a match player, even though I won in Sligo,” said Hume, who could become the first player since the legendary Joe Carr in 1956 to win the West and the Irish Amateur Strokeplay titles in the same season.
“Royal Dublin is always a tough test and with the forecast for a lot of wind, I think it will be a bit of a battle this week. It’ll be tough."
A change in the format — the event has moved from three to four days with a cut after 54 holes, replacing the 36-hole slog on Sunday with just one round — has attracted the strongest field in years.
South African Amateur champion Thriston Lawrence is arguably the favourite following his win in the Lytham Trophy last Sunday with his compatriot Christiaan Bezuidenhout also highly fancied.
There will also be a strong challenge from Great Britain with 13 English players no fewer than 22 Scots making the trip.
The Scottish contingent his headed by teenager Bradley Neil was second in the South African Stroke Play and the Individual event at the European Nations Cup at Sotogrande before coming third behind Lawrence at Royal Lytham and St Annes on Sunday.
As for the defending champion, Cannon (35) just seems to get stronger with age as he showed when reaching the final of “the West.”
Down in the dumps after picking up an injury over the winter, an invitation from Pádraig Harrington to watch him train was all it took to brighten the Balbriggan man's mood.
“Seeing how keen he is and how crazy he still is about his golf was very contagious,” Cannon said. “It gave me great impetus going forward.”
Irish Amateur Open Championship, The Royal Dublin GC
- (0700/1051) R Connolly (Palmerstown Stud), S Borrowman (Sco), D Brady (Co Sligo)
- (0711/1102) A Mason (Eng) J Fox (Portmarnock) E Griffin Waterford
- (0722/1113) J Hopkins (Royal Dublin) K Mcdonagh (Royal Dublin) D Reidy (Co Sligo)
- (0733/1124) C Campbell (Warrenpoint) N MacAndrew (Sco) G Mottershead (Eng)
- (0744/1135) D Deschler (USA) R Gribben (Warrenpoint) K Quigg (City of Derry)
- (0755/1146) L Jansen (Ned) K McCarthy (Castle) martyr) S Moran (Carton House)
- (0806/1157) S Westdijk (Ned) J McDonald (Sco) R McNamara (Headfort)
- (0817/1219) C Bezuidenhout (SAf) J McGinn (Laytown & Bettystown) R Cannon (Balbriggan)
- (0828/1230) NJ Arnoldi (SAf) D McElroy (Ballymena) C Howie (Sco)
- (0839/1241) H Tomlinson (Eng) R Whitson (Mourne) T Lawrence (SAf)
- (0850/1252) H Arkenau (Ger) S McCarthy (Black Bush) C Sharvin (Ardglass)
- (0901/1303) R van West (Ned) J Lombardo (Ger) S Grehan (Tullamore)
- (0912/1314) R O'Donovan (Lucan) D Boshart (Ned) B Neil (Sco)
- (0923/1325) P Coughlan (Moate) C Syme (Sco) E McCormack (Galway)
- (0945/1336) B Best (Rathmore) J Hume (Naas) A Culverwell (Sco)
- (0956/1347) K Kulokorpi (Finland) G McDermott (Carton House) S Lopez (Esp)
- (1007/1358) G Lenehan (Portmarnock) M Kuronen (Finland) J Sugrue (Mallow)
- (1018/1409) L Ruuska (Finland) I O'Rourke (Royal Dublin) G Stevenson (Sco)
- (1029/1420) H Diamond (Belvoir Park) R Dawson (Faithlegg) J Duff (Sco)
- (1040/1431) S O'Connor (Luttrellstown (Castle) T McLarnon (Massereene) C Fairweather (Knock)
- (1051/0700) E Smith (Ardee) A Verschaeren (Lux) P Reilly (Sco)
- (1102/0711) D Holland (Castle) J Allan (Eng) S Gibson (Sco)
- (1113/0722) M Kippen (Eng) S Bryan (Delgany) E Ferguson (Sco)
- (1124/0733) R Lester (Hermitage) D Kay (Sco) J Yeomans (Eng)
- (1135/0744) R Bridges (Stackstown) H McCullen (Eng) L Lipold (Aut)
- (1146/0755) E Holland (Eng) W Russell (Clandeboye) D Brennan (Shannon)
- (1157/0806) T Gandy (Isle of Man) E Arthurs (Forrest Little) A Dunton (Sco)
- (1219/0817) M Harradine (Swi) V Lopes (Por) C Mills (Shandon Park)
- (1230/0828) P McBride (Island) A Michellod (Swi) A Wilson (Wal)
- (1241/0839) J Bush (Wal) J Magalhaes (Por) C Carroll (Shandon Park)
- (1252/0850) G Costa (Por) C O'Rourke (Naas) A Sutherland (Sco)
- (1303/0901) A Choen (Israel) G Lawlor (Newbridge) J Savage (Sco)
- (1314/0912) M Shanahan (Castlemartyr) Y Taler (Israel) G Lappin (Belvoir Park)
- (1325/0923) G Van Baarle (Bel) K Le Blanc (Island) JR Galbraith (Whitehead)
- (1336/0945) S O'Hara (Co Sligo) P Dedek (Cz Rep) L Leysen (Bel)
- (1347/0956) L Thiele (Bra) D Carey (Carton House) C Ross (Sco)
- (1358/1007) G Collins (Rosslare) A Tourinho (Bra) C Baird (Sco)
- (1409/1018) S Zach (Cz Rep) S Healy (Claremorris) D Coghlan (Portmarnock)
- (1420/1029) S McGlynn (Carton House) A Blaney (Sco) M Penge (Eng)
- (1431/1040) D Young (Sco) R Hopwood (Eng) B Anderson (Royal Dublin)