JOHN MCHENRY: Rookies must learn lessons on road from amateur to pro game

It’s a road well-travelled, but the life of a rookie transitioning from the amateur to the professional ranks, like we see with our own Paul Dunne and Gary Hurley this week, is tumultuous at best.

Where once they were close teammates playing for the same cause, now they are very much individuals, fighting for every playing opportunity in the hope that they too can emulate the feats of this week’s host Rory McIlroy.

Professional golf is one of the toughest careers you could ever consider pursuing.

Gone, for the amateurs, are the filters and the comfort zones, where teammates can carry you, replaced instead by an environment of cold, hardened professionals, all of whom are ruthlessly efficient at maximising their return from the game, regardless of their form.

They live in their own world, hoping to realise their own dreams and for the rookie this stark realisation can prove to be a very chastening experience.

So you had better be focused and patient because the tour is no vacation! Travel is tough and expensive, the nights are long and there are absolutely no guarantees.No one should underestimate the opportunity afforded to both Paul Dunne and Gary Hurley to participate in this week’s Irish Open.

For both, it is an opportunity to showcase their talents in front of an Irish audience, but more importantly, it also gives them an understanding of the sheer volume of great players that already stand between them even making a decent standard of living from the European Tour, let alone regularly winning tournaments.

The jump is huge and where before they had the comfort of competing in Irish Opens as amateurs with little at stake, now it is their livelihood so a good performance this week not only means a significant cash windfall but also the opportunity for future invitations from sponsors, keen to support a rising talent.

For Hurley at level par and Dunne at one-over par, that chance is still very much alive but rather that force the issue now, they must stay focused on doing what they do best, which is playing their own game and not being too consumed by the fireworks going on around them.

If their challenge is embraced properly, they can enjoy the many challenges facing them this weekend; the weather, a tough course and a tough field of competitors, but they should know also that everyone wants them to take these tentative steps forward in their professional careers, no matter how small.

Both have enough game right now to be successful professionals but where now their performances are dominated by a great short game, in time if their attitude is right, much like Rory McIlroy or Tiger Woods in their prime, their game will become more powerful and more multi-dimensional.

But to get there, they must be patient. They must also be fully focused.

To date, I am glad to say that it seems that both are very much on the right track towards realising their potential as well as their ambitions in the game and if you take a good look at the major tours, you’ll discover that many of the most successful golfers are those who have worked their way up through the ranks from amateur tournaments to mini golf tours and then on to major golf tours.

Both Dunne and Hurley seem very serious about their business and are extremely motivated to improve their competitive standing in every tournament they play in and this week’s event should be no different regardless of its status.

That they seem comfortable in this environment also bodes well for the future but they must now continue the trend in the right direction. Only then will we witness their real talents emerging, and that could be something very special indeed.

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