McElroy targets amateur ‘Major’ before joining pros

Dermot McElroy is determined to break his championship duck when the Irish Amateur Open gets under way at The Royal Dublin today.

McElroy targets amateur ‘Major’ before joining pros

The 20-year-old Ballymena star is looking forward to a joining the professional ranks but, while he is unsure when he will take the plunge, he wants to leave the amateur game with a ‘Major’ on his CV.

Seventh in the Lytham Trophy last Sunday, he’s keeping his fingers crossed that his putting is sharp and he’s ready for some revenge too, having missed out on last year’s play-off by a single shot.

With West Waterford’s Gary Hurley pulling out of The Royal Dublin due to exam pressures, McElroy is the leading Irish contender for the title alongside Mourne’s Reeve Whitson, Headfort’s Rory McNamara and Faithlegg’s Robin Dawson, with Rosslare’s Gary Collins another man who can make his mark following his 334th-place finish at Royal Lytham and St Annes.

“It could have been a different story at Lytham if I had holed my chances inside eight feet,” said McElroy, who like West of Ireland champion Jack Hume, missed the play-off by just one shot last year. “But I’m very happy with my game going to Royal Dublin.”

Hume believes he’s ready to deal with everything mother nature can throw at him and become the first player for 58 years to complete the double of ‘the West’ and the Irish Amateur Open.

With 120 players from 19 nations, including a 70-strong overseas invasion, bracing itself for west winds forecast to gust over 30mph, the championship looks wide open. But after breaking his senior championship duck at Rosses Point last month, Naas ace Hume (20) believes he’s ready for anything and he’s more determined than ever after a 72nd-hole mistake cost him a place in last year’s play-off, won by Balbriggan’s Robbie Cannon.

“I feel I’m improving all the time and I think I’m stronger as a stroke player than a match player, even though I won in Sligo,” said Hume. “Royal Dublin is always a tough test and with the forecast for a lot of wind, I think it will be a bit of a battle this week. It’ll be tough.”

A change in the format — the event has moved from three to four days with a cut after 54 holes and the 36-hole slog on Sunday has been replaced with just one round — has attracted the strongest field in years. South African amateur champion Thriston Lawrence is arguably the favourite following his win in the Lytham Trophy last weekend, with his compatriot Christiaan Bezuidenhout also highly fancied.

There will also be a strong challenge from Great Britain with 13 English players and no fewer than 22 Scots making the trip.

The Scottish contingent is headed by teenager Bradley Neil, who was second in the South African Stroke Play and the individual event at the European Nations Cup at Sotogrande before coming third behind Lawrence at Royal Lytham and St Annes on Sunday.

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