Putting key to McElroy’s bid for glory in the West

Dermot McElroy hopes to celebrate his call-up to the St Andrews Trophy squad by challenging for his first amateur major when the Radisson Blu-sponsored West of Ireland Amateur Open gets under way at Rosses Point today.

Putting key to McElroy’s bid for glory in the West

The 21-year old from Ballymena has made huge strides in recent seasons, finishing in the top 10 in Challenge Tour’s Northern Open Challenge Ireland at Galgorm Castle last year before making the final stage of the European Tour Qualifying School.

He was expected to take the plunge into the professional ranks following the British Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush and Portstewart in June but has shelved those plans in his bid to finally win one of the major amateur titles.

“It’s all going to depend on how the putter is working,” said McElroy, who is named in the 21-strong Great Britain and Ireland squad for the St Andrews Trophy matches alongside The Island’s Gavin Moynihan, West Waterford’s Gary Hurley and Naas’s Jack Hume.

“I’ve a habit of missing four three-footers a round and that’s giving holes away so that’s going to be key, especially if it’s very windy.

“I just want to win one of the big amateur events, so it would be nice to win a ‘West’ or the North of Ireland, any of them.

“I’ve no idea when I will turn professional, but I don’t think it will be this year. I’m going to finish the amateur season.”

Rory McIlroy was the last player to successfully defend the West title but Headfort’s Rory McNamara has the form and the pedigree to follow in those famous footsteps.

The 24-year old from Co Meath has been working hard on his game at his Spanish base and, having claimed the 36-hole Lee Valley Senior Scratch Cup last weekend, he’s playing well enough to pull it off.

“My game is getting a lot better all round and what I am looking for now is consistency, which is what is needed for the pro ranks,” said McNamara, who turns professional later this year.

McNamara is the favourite ahead of McElroy, with 2012 champion Harry Diamond, Co Sligo’s Gary McDermott, Hurley, Hume and Mourne international Reeve Whitson all expected to be in the shake-up.

The 132-strong field will play two strokeplay qualifying rounds at Rosses Point today and tomorrow, with the top 64 winning a spot in Sunday’s matchplay draw with the final scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

Irish Amateur Open champion Robbie Cannon will be expected to go well in tough conditions while others capable of making a run with Portmarnock’s Munster interprovincial Geoff Lenehan, Claremorris’ Stephen Healy and Massereene’s Tiarnan McLarnon and the evergreen Cavan man Eddie McCormack from Galway Golf Club amongst the danger men.

Virtually all the top Irish players are taking part except US college players Moynihan, Chris Selfridge and Paul Dunne, the East of Ireland champion, who was yesterday named in the European team to take on the US in the Palmer Cup at Walton Heath in June.

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