Irish amateurs dreaming big

Four Irish amateurs will tee it up at Fota Island today and while they all dream of following in the footsteps of fairytale 2009 champion Shane Lowry, they’re just thrilled to have a chance to rub shoulders with Rory McIlroy and some of the best players in the world.

Irish amateurs dreaming big

For West Waterford’s Gary Hurley, Balbriggan’s Robbie Cannon, Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy and The Island’s Gavin Moynihan, it’s a golden opportunity to show the world that Irish amateur golf is a force to be reckoned with.

“You are always proud to wear the Ireland shirt and show you are from Ireland,” said Hurley, who is assured of some strong support, especially tomorrow (Fri). “Hopefully the four of us here this week can do Irish amateur golf proud and show them what we are made of.”

All four have come through the same Golfing Union of Ireland system that produced Lowry, Pádraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke — to name just four — and the performances of our major winning stars are all the inspiration they need to go into today’s first round determined to give their all.

Hurley is just 21 and could not be more excited about the chance to tee it up with Frenchman Alexandre Kaleka and Swede Jens Danthorp.

“Rory was here in our position five or six years ago and if I could have even a little bit of his success, it would be great,” Hurley said. “I know the course because we used to have Munster Boys coaching at the Academy here and I have some goals too. I definitely want to make the weekend but that’s just one of my goals — I have a few others.”

Hurley knows how much Lowry’s 2009 win at Co Louth meant to Irish amateur golf as the NUI Maynooth scholarship student lives with the Offaly man’s younger brother.

“I wasn’t that big into golf at the time but seeing him win the Irish Open encouraged a lot of people to take it up,” Hurley said. “I’m living with his brother Alan and he’s talked about how special Baltray was for the whole family to see Shane winning a professional event as an amateur, especially in the fashion he did by winning the playoff. That takes some guts.

“A lot of players would have just thought, ‘I’ve done well to make the playoff’, but he obviously wanted to win and he’s done so well since then.”

Walker Cup player Moynihan only missed the cut by a stroke at Carton House last year but having just won the Scottish Amateur Open and coming from the University of Alabama, the top US college side for the last two years, he’s capable of putting in a serious performance.

“I’m playing well enough to make the cut but I hope the course firms up a bit,” Moynihan said. “Some of the holes are playing a bit long but hopefully the sun will keep shining and speed the course up a little bit.

“The goal is to enjoy it. If you play well you will enjoy it. And if you get off to a bad start, it doesn’t matter. We are just lucky to be here.”

Moynihan will be a definite starter for Alabama this year having failed to win his place in the five-man side that successfully defended the NCAA crown recently.

Three of his teammates are now in the pro-ranks but he’s convinced he’s improved his game and will be better able to tackle Fota Island’s rough having learned new shots in the deep south.

“The team we had was fantastic,” Moynihan said. “Playing with them is like playing in a tournament every day. They are shooting 65 and 66 and you are just coming fifth or sixth out of the nine lads.

“It’s got me a bit sharper and definitely more disciplined in my golf. It is definitely the best university I could have gone to because we have been number one the last two years now.”

McElroy is so talented he reached last year’s European Tour Q-School final stage as an amateur, missed the cut by just one shot in the 2012 Irish Open at Royal Portrush and finished in the top 10 in the Northern Ireland Open Challenge last year.

At 35, Cannon is the senior Irish amateur in action but he’s loved the experience and played with Pádraig Harrington, Brett Rumford and Matthew Fitzpatrick in practice.

“Brett is a short game wizard and I’ve definitely been picking his brains,” Cannon said. “I was a bit anxious out there yesterday but if I can putt well, I’ll have a chance of going well. It’s fantastic to have this opportunity.”

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