Saturday evening would have been a restless night sleep-wise, for both Robin Dawson and Cormac Sharvin.
One final great round of golf had the potential to be career changing, or at the very least provide an all-important platform into the next two mega events, the Scottish Open and the Open Championship.
Regardless of your amateur pedigree,
the early years in the professional game are intimidating.
Quite apart from the financial costs, there is also the early mental adjustment from being a big fish in a very small pond to swimming in an ocean of very talented hardened veterans of the game, all of whom who know how to extract every ounce of their potential.
The biggest hurdle any newcomer faces is earning the chance to compete against world class players each week and though both Sharvin and Dawson have a regular place on the Challenge Tour, there aren’t many bigger events than the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
So the stakes and the opportunity that yesterday’s round of golf presented couldn’t have been much higher.
As with most professional sports, the European Tour generates its income from promoting and marketing its star players to potential sponsors.
It is hardly surprising then that its competitive model is specifically designed to favour the best. Every week of competition, the best are given four rounds to rise to the top.
Over the course of last week’s tournament, Dawson and Sharvin first survived a gruelling cut before then putting themselves into a very strong position on Saturday evening to challenge.
Barring any disasters, a big pay day was already assured but the more experienced players in the field would still have fancied their chances of overhauling the duo with the final roll of the dice.
Dawson’s and Sharvin’s years of competing in the South of Ireland should have counted for something but any advantage they may have had was negated somewhat by yesterday’s benign weather conditions.
What did matter yesterday was their mindset and their level of commitment. A calm mind when even your entourage are nervous, means everything. It is for moments like these that the players so religiously practise their breathing techniques and their pre-shot routines.
It is now that they will come into their own, allowing them to commit to and execute their shots, even when their mind may be playing tricks.
If Dawson’s round got off to a perfect start with a remarkably composed opening birdie three, then Sharvin’s start couldn’t have been more different. A pulled drive followed by a poorly struck short iron and a nervous three-putt for an opening bogey, followed by another three-putt bogey on the third. You feared for his round but birdies on five, six and seven said everything about his mental state.
He had absorbed the early blows and I was impressed by his bravery to keep pushing in the perfect playing conditions. Looking back, he will rue his momentum being broken by unforced errors. Such are the tight margins at this level, that every little mistake can be easily punished. Sharvin will be a stronger player for this experience.
At the top table, it was remarkable to witness Rafa Cabrera-Bello’s collapse after an imperious front nine holes where he looked in control.
Rattled by uncertainty and the momentum of his fellow Spaniard Jon Rahm in particular, the closing holes gave a number of players a chance to win but only one person looked like he was capable.
It is easy to understand why Rahm is a favourite of the large galleries.
He is a swashbuckling entertainer, full of talent, with enough of an error count to keep the rest of the field competitive. At 24 years of age, his next goal must surely be devising a winning strategy for major championships.
That may mean a slightly more conservative gameplan but I certainly wouldn’t be too surprised to see him winning one sooner than later and even surpassing his great compatriot’s tally by the end of his career.
A final word then about the tremendous effort that the greater Lahinch community has put into making the DDF Irish Open the undoubted success that it was over this past week.
Given their scale of investment, Dubai Duty Free and the tournament’s host Paul McGinley, must be thrilled that the tournament has been an overwhelming success.
While the golf course will earn most of the plaudits from the players, the success of an event this large can only come from the greater community fully rowing in behind it and once again the Irish Open has created a feelgood factor for both competitor and spectator alike that must be the envy of the golfing world.