Peter O’Keeffe is desperate to end his run of near-misses at the Pierse Motors-sponsored South of Ireland Championship which begins in Lahinch this morning.
O’Keeffe, a 37-year-old former European Challenge Tour professional, winner of the Irish Amateur Open at Royal County Down in 2017 and a recent finalist in the North of Ireland Championship, has fair grounds for believing that a place in the weekend final is very much within his grasp.
“I was beaten in the semi-final last year and the quarter-final the year before so the South surely owes me something”, he reflected. “Lahinch is a course I really enjoy and all the more so after caddying there for Robin Dawson in all four days of the recent Irish Open Championship.
“It was fantastic and is demanding in a wind. Unfortunately, there was hardly any for the Irish Open, it was never more than blustery at any stage”.
There was a time when the vagaries of selection committees used to seriously frustrate amateur golfers but nowadays WAGR (World Amateur Golf Rankings) and order of merit points generally decide the majority of places which in turn means that people like O’Keeffe can go into tournaments like the “South” with a reduced degree of pressure on their shoulders. The recent North of Ireland was very much a case in point.
“I was in control of all my matches and beat my Irish team-mate Robert Brazill in the semi-final. In the final against English visitor Aaron Edwards-Hill, I got off to a bad start with three bogeys in the first six holes but brought it all the way to the 17th. I got a little tired as it had been a long two weeks”.
However, the Douglas golfer puts a delightful positive on all of that: “I have a very understanding wife in Mary Claire.
“We have a five-month daughter, Alice, and among the places she has been to so far are St Andrews, Portmarnock and Lahinch and she will be back there again this week for the South. I like that”.
If O’Keeffe is to realise his ambition of improving still further on his two most recent performances in the ‘South’, he will have to overcome a number of high quality players including Walker Cup hopefuls James Sugrue, Caolan Rafferty, Mark Power, Conor Purcell and John Murphy who have been exempted into the match-play rounds. Murphy’s name, incidentally, does not figure in a revised Walker Cup squad announced yesterday.
Rafferty is the current holder and was preceded by Sugrue (2017) and Purcell (2016) while other former champions in the field include Pat Murray (2012), Stephen Walsh (2011), John Greene (2010), Robert Cannon (2009), Justin Kehoe (2001) and Peter Sheehan (1993).