Sean Desmond has hardly had time to fully take in the magnitude of his victory in the South of Ireland Championship last Sunday before gearing himself up for the AIG Irish Close Championship beginning at Ballybunion on Saturday.
Having flown under the radar on his way to a surprise win at Lahinch, the 21-year-old Monkstown golfer will command more attention at Ballybunion as he bids to add to a growing reputation. However, he is determined to keep his feet firmly on the ground and will approach the Close in the same frame of mind as did for Lahinch.
“While it is all taking time to sink in, I am aware of how much it means to win the South”, he says.
“Everybody at Monkstown is very proud of what Tom Egan achieved back in his time when he won the Close and the East of Ireland. They are all proud of me now and have given me massive support for which I am very grateful.
“But there is no way I will be getting ahead of myself. The Close is the same format as the South, two rounds of qualifying with 64 to go through, and nothing will be different from my point of view. First and foremost, it’s all about making the cut and we’ll see where it goes after that”.
Surprisingly, given its worldwide fame, Sean hadn’t played the Old Course at Ballybunion until Wednesday, although that may not prove too great a handicap given the majority of the field are also relatively unfamiliar with its many intricacies.
Furthermore, he tees it up in Ballybunion with his sense of self-belief boosted by his exploits at Lahinch: “Yeah, my confidence is a lot higher now”, he agrees.
“My win in the South has validated everything I have been doing. It’s not easy to come through two qualifying rounds and six matches against top-class opposition. It showed me that I was doing something right.
“I knew I was in with every chance when I beat Conor Purcell, a former winner and likely Walker Cup player.
“On Sunday morning, I told myself I had as good a chance as any of the other remaining players. I knew I was playing well and asked myself, why not?”
The three leading Irish amateurs of the day, James Sugrue, Caolan Rafferty and Conor Purcell will miss the Close as they are involved in the US Amateur Championship at Pinehurst next week.
But the holder, Robert Cannon, strength and conditioning guru to Open champion Shane Lowry, will be there (along with Lowry’s brother Alan) and most of the remaining top players including Mark Power (Kilkenny), John Murphy (Kinsale), Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint), Ronan Mullarney (Galway), Peter O’Keeffe (Douglas) and South semi-finalist, Sean Flanagan (Co Sligo and Portmarnock).
The qualifying rounds on Saturday and Sunday will see the leading 64 players go through to the match play stages with the 18 hole final on Wednesday afternoon.