The second tier Challenge Tour is returning to the Republic of Ireland after a six-year absence and both Rosapenna’s Ruaidhri McGee and Walker Cup player Gavin Moynihan, now a rookie professional, are looking to keep Ireland’s great run of form going in Carlow.
McGee, 24, arrives at the spectacular Tullow venue ranked 21st on Challenge Tour money list and just one big finish away from the top 15 who automatically win European Tour cards at the end of the season.
And with just three events to go, he’s hoping the crowds turn up in numbers to cheer on a 21-strong Irish challenge that features Walker Cup stars Moynihan, Gary Hurley, Jack Hume, Jimmy Mullen and Cormac Sharvin.
“A lot of people will be out watching the Walker Cup boys because the amateurs get a lot of support in Ireland, and the fact that they all did so well at Royal Lytham and St Annes will only add to that,” McGee said.
“My goal is the top 15 in the rankings and a European Tour spot. It would be ideal to win one of the remaining events. That would take care of everything, and Ireland would be an extra special place to win.”
While West Waterford and Maynooth University star Hurley missed the cut on his pro debut in the Alfred Dunhill Links, he’ll be inspired by superb performances there by Dunne, who is playing the British Masters this week, and Mullen.
As Dunne finished 19th and Mullen tied 30th at St Andrews, Moynihan battled through the First Stage of Q-School in Portugal just days after learning of the sudden death of his lifetime coach Hugh Jackson.
He had a simple swing thought from “Jacko” in his mind in Lisbon and he’ll be trying to keep things simple on his professional debut on the Challenge Tour.
“I can’t wait to play on the Challenge Tour,” Moynihan said. “The scoring is very impressive and the courses they play are not easy either. If you play well here, you’re well capable of playing on The European Tour.”
Meanwhile Irish pair John-Ross Galbraith and David Rawluk both have work to do if they are to qualify for the second stage of the European Tour qualifying school.
Northern Ireland’s Galbraith goes into today’s third round at Frilford Heath in Oxfordshire three-over par, with Dublinner Rawluk one stroke further back.
Whitehead’s Galbraith, a former British Boys Championship quarter-finalist, signed for a one-over 73 yesterday to give him a 36-hole aggregate of 147 having carded 74 in round one.
Once again it was an up and down round for Galbraith, with his four birdies overshadowed by one bogey and two double bogeys which might ultimately prove costly.
Rawluk, who plays out of the Island Club, began badly by dropping a shot on his first hole.
And, despite a birdie on the sixth, he was left to rue a double bogey on 12 followed by another bogey on the 16th as he posted a three-over 75 following a 73 on day one.
Rawluk is looking to one better after agonisingly missing out on qualification at the same venue last year by just one stroke.