Rising star Gavin staying grounded

There have been too many examples over the years of promising young Irish amateur golfers losing the run of themselves and turning professional without considering all the implications.

Rising star Gavin staying grounded

So it was good to hear two outstanding members of the current crop, 19-year-old Gavin Moynihan from the Island club in Dublin, and Gary Hurley, 21, from West Waterford, insist yesterday they would be completing their university education before even considering any moves in that direction.

Moynihan, arguably the most promising of the lot, is a student at the University of Alabama, already a Walker Cup player and recent winner of the Scottish Amateur Open on the back of the Irish equivalent in 2013. But the slightly built red head with the disarming smile isn’t looking beyond completing his studies in Alabama before contemplating his future.

Instead, he is more concerned about a cold putting streak that has prevented him from shooting quite as low as he would like.

“Because of that, I’ve been shooting 71s and 72s when it should be 68s and 69s,” he stated.

Moynihan, who missed the cut by a single shot at Carton House last year, is becoming accustomed to these big occasions. Even a two under par 69 that left him as good as any Irishman at the time as he walked off the 18th with a birdie didn’t faze him.

“I finished ahead of a lot of them last year,” he said in a matter of fact kind of way and without any sign of big headedness.

“This was nothing new to me. I am very pleased at the way I hit the ball and I like the course. It suits my eye. I drove it well which is the key for the rough is so lush it’s unbelievable and I just had to hack it out once or twice. Making the weekend is the goal and I’m really happy with two under to start. If my driving keeps solid, I’ll be there.”

After being spotted chatting to Matt Fitzpatrick, the young Englishman who is making his first professional appearance this week having played the US Open last week as an amateur, it was suggested that he might be following him into the paid ranks.

“Maybe if I win something but it will definitely be another year or two,” he declared. “That’s what I think at the moment anyway.”

Gary Hurley, who is a business management student on a Paddy Harrington scholarship at NUI Maynooth, is looking very much in the same direction. His achievements include victory in the R&A Bursars Cup at St Andrews last year that qualified him for a place on the European Palmer Cup team while he was a member of the Maynooth team that captured last year’s Barton Shield.

The Harrington scholarship was set up in honour of Pádraig Harrington’s late father and the three-time major champion said last night: “It’s fantastic to see Gary out here playing so well. It’s great that there’s such a path for young Irish amateurs to take rather than having to go to college in the States.”

Moynihan and Hurley had declined the opportunity to play the British Amateur at Royal Portrush this week to be at Fota and not surprisingly, neither was unhappy with this call. As with the other amateurs in the field, Dermot McElroy and Robbie Cannon, neither of whom had a good day, they all sported the new look GUI polo shirts and looked very smart indeed.

For Hurley, it was a debut at this level and in spite of dropping shots at the 16th and 18th, he – along with car loads of supporters from West Waterford – was content with a one over par 72.

“It was disappointing to three putt the 18th for a bogey but I really enjoyed myself and handled the nerves very well,” he said.

“The support was tremendous, there was a loud cheer every time I sank a putt and especially at the fourth where I hit and a three wood from 254 yards to 20-feet and holed for eagle. That left me two under for the tournament but a few shots slipped away. One of my goals coming here was to make the cut, another was to enjoy the experience and to give the busload of supporters coming here something to cheer about.”

Cian McNamara remains the youngest ever winner of the South of Ireland Championship at 18. He celebrates his 28th birthday in eight days having abandoned his ambitions of making it on tour and instead enjoying a career coaching and fulfilling his role as club professional at Monkstown. He qualifies for the Irish Open as a leading member of the Irish PGA circuit and last year opened with a 68 at Carton House before just missing the cut.

Yesterday’s open even par 71 leaves him in a good position to go one better on this occasion.

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