“When I was playing junior golf into amateur golf, it was almost a mini-PGA Tour,” Spieth said, referring to the level of competition. “There will be an amateur that wins a PGA event or something like that, possibly even a major, I think, at some point in the next decade or so, just because the game in amateur golf across the world now is getting more diverse and more intense, and I think it’s awesome for guys to step up and do this.”
Of course, the European Tour is well used to seeing amateurs do well. And if Shane Lowry can win the 2009 Irish Open, Danny Lee the 2009 Johnnie Walker Classic, and Pablo Martin the 2007 Estoril Open de Portugal, there’s no reason why Walker Cup star Cormac Sharvin can’t challenge for this week’s Volopa Irish Challenge at Mount Wolseley Hotel Spa and Golf Resort.
“When you see Mr Dunne competing in Open Championships, things like that, you are thinking perhaps that you can go and compete at Mount Wolseley,” Sharvin said, before heading off to caddie for Kieran McManus (JP’s brother) in the Alfred Dunhill Links last week. “I don’t see why not. I have got a chance to win. At the end of the day, if you play well you are probably going to have a chance.
“I can’t see myself turning pro until next year — maybe around May time, when I graduate. But who knows… if you got yourself a little win on the Challenge Tour…”
The 22-year old Ardglass amateur is a breath of fresh air in that he wasn’t a scratch player at 15 but a 12 handicapper, winning his first senior competition with 41 stableford points back in 2008. The following year, he was playing off three. And the rest is history.
A talented hurler in his time, Sharvin was arguably the best Irish player in the Walker Cup, winning three points out of three and generally impressing everyone with his quick-fire style, aggressive iron play, and his confidence.
If it’s true that Nike are dusting down the chequebook for when he inevitably turns professional, he’s not saying.
“Nike?” he chuckled. “I don’t think I am a big enough athlete for that. You’re the first to say that to me. But I have had some nice messages from people.”
There’s bound to be interest in the world No 18-ranked amateur, especially if he continues to add to his victory tally and shows form in events such as this week’s Challenge Tour tournament in Tullow.
But Sharvin is prepared to take his time, listen to what people have to say, and hope the game continues to come as easy to him as it has so far. “I am definitely turning pro and it is just a case of when is the right time. At the minute I am doing my studies and haven’t made the full decision.
“The plan is not to rush into anything and right now I am happy to talk to people and keep my options open. I am taking a step back and taking it all in and listening. Obviously a few people are going to be interested.”
Sharvin’s uncle is tour caddie Brian Martin, who recommended him to Stirling University coach Dean Robertson, a former European Tour player.
Martin raves about his nephew and so does the Scottish coach. What do they see? Talent, obviously, but there’s also the confidence factor.
What’s impressive about the Spieths of the world is confidence. And the new breed of Irish players — rookies Dunne, Gary Hurley, and Gavin Moynihan, or their Walker Cup team mates Sharvin and Jack Hume — are all amazingly confident at a young age.
Sharvin is particularly uncomplicated — reminiscent of a young Lowry in his approach to the game. “I think it was just believing in myself and my game just developed through playing rather than a lot of technical stuff. The more I play, the more I seem to improve.
“I love getting out there with a card in my hand. For me, if I am playing badly, it is usually something pretty simple and I can work it out myself hitting balls. It just seems to come around. If I am hitting it bad, I don’t really dwell on it. It seems to come around pretty quickly.”
His belief was only bolstered by Dunne’s performance in The Open. “It brings everyone confidence. You know you’ve beaten him and wonder, ‘Can I do that?’ You don’t know until you are in position, obviously, and Paul showed some great mental strength so it’s hard to know if you can do it until you are in that position yourself.”
Given how well he’s played this year, Sharvin may be about to get his six gun out and test himself against some of Europe’s top young guns in Tullow. Hold on to your hats. Whatever happens to his scorecard, he won’t be afraid to open up. A Texan like Spieth would surely approve.
Coach O’Grady makes his mark
Coach Shane O’Grady has helped Leona Maguire become world amateur No 1 and the 2015 National Player of the Year in the US.
But he’s also helped Waterford’s Eanna Griffin become a player who could one day challenge for top honours in the professional game. Runner up to Dermot McElroy in this year’s West of Ireland Championship at Rosses Point and a semi-finalist in the “South” last year, Griffin was again in contention last week when he finished sixth in the North of England Open Amateur Strokeplay Championship at the Pannal Golf Club near Harrogate, carding rounds of 65 and 73 to finish on six-under-par behind winner Adam Chapman.
While Griffin was contending in England, Leona was getting her 2015-16 underway with Duke University in the Annika Intercollegiate in Orlando, finishing tied ninth as the team came home fourth behind South Carolina.
Leona began the week by being presented with the 2015 Annika Award, given to the top player in women’s college golf by a vote from her peers, by Annika Sorenstam.
Leona and her sister Lisa return to action this week with the Tar Heel Invitational on Friday.
Rosslare seek head pro
Rosslare Golf Club is looking for a new head professional following the retirement of Johnny Young after 16 years in the job.
In a heartfelt goodbye, he said: “My wish now, is that I will be remembered as someone who gave 100% honesty, commitment, and loyalty. You know when I first started this job, my father said, ‘You’re a lucky man starting off on this exciting adventure.’ I’ve had a great adventure. I now embark on a new adventure.”
There will be a long list of applicants for the top job in Rosslare, which has 1,000 members across all categories.
Applicants must have a minimum PGA Class AA qualification.
Ballybunion claim Fourball crown
Ballybunion beat Rockmount 2½-1½ to claim the Miele All-Ireland Fourball Championship in bright sunshine at Newlands on Sunday.
The top match was a game of nip and tuck but Ballybunion took a two-hole advantage through 12, and never let go as Mary Sheehy and Maeve Barrett secured a 3&1 victory over Jo Donaldson and Maureen Entwistle.
The pairings in the second game were evenly matched throughout but the Ballybunion pairing Margaret McAuliffe and Anne O’Riordan took a one-hole lead heading to the 18th and were called in as Pat Joyce and Geraldine Williams beat Jan Linsday Barbara Fleet 5&4 in match three.
With a 3&1 victory in the top match and a 5&4 win in the third, the Munster side had secured enough points to seal victory and take home the Miele All- Ireland Fourball crown.