Not that I left the clubs alone, far from it. I had a lovely game arranged at Tramore with my dad, John, my uncle Shane and my brother Charlie, which I was looking forward to for a while. My uncle plays off eight and Charlie is a really nice player, he plays off three and Dad’s okay, he’s off 12. It’s always nice to get family fourballs like that when you’re off and in my opinion, Tramore is the best golf course in Waterford by far, a really nice layout which is kept in great condition.
Sometimes it can be difficult to separate social golf from the competitive side of things but I think it’s important to be able to switch off and play casually with friends or family. So there are two sides and obviously, I’d be a lot more focused if I was playing a big tournament.
I had a disappointing experience in Spain at the Spanish Amateur a couple of weeks ago. I missed the cut in Valencia by one shot, unfortunately, and took the next week off, went to France with Emma, my girlfriend. It was nice to put the clubs away for the first time in a while but since I’ve been back it’s been all practice.
I’ve seen my coach Noel Fox a couple of times and got some great work in with him as well as Donal Scott, my putting coach, as we planned for the Nations Cup. We didn’t do anything major, I was just keeping my tendencies in check with little tweaks here or there so I can just keep ticking over and when I’m away I can be aware of problems and fix them. I’m already playing nicely and just concentrating on what I have to do and if the results happen all well and good. I feel my game is in good shape and I’m looking forward to this week with the lads.
We arrived at Sotogrande in southern Spain on Sunday and today will be our second practice day before the Nations Cup gets underway tomorrow. It’s going to be a good test of golf for one of the biggest tournaments of the year, with the four best players from each country around Europe making up a strong field. It will be good to see where my game is at compared to other elite amateurs from other countries.
I’m looking forward to the challenge and this Ireland quartet, we’re all really good friends. Alex Gleeson is the Irish Close Champion from last year and he goes to UCD while myself, Stuart Grehan and Kevin Le Blanc are all at Maynooth University and that’s great for the Paddy Harrington Golf Scholarship. All of us being on the Ireland team shows that results are paying off there and reflects on the golf we’re all playing as well.
We’re all college players, all good friends with the same kind of interests and it’s a really good team. Once we’re out on that golf course I think we’re all kind of selfish and all want to beat each other but once we come off it the rivalry is left out there and we’re all back to being friends again.
hat competitive edge is a big help for the team in a 72-hole stroke play event like this where the best three cards in each round count towards the team score and having all four of us contending for individual honours, which Jack Hume won last year, can only be a positive for Ireland’s cause. We’re all motivated to push on and work harder on our games to try and beat one another.
Ireland are going there as defending champions with Stuart and Alex on the team last year and as a nation we’re building a nice reputation for Irish golf so we’re going to have to try and maintain that.
I don’t think that adds any extra pressure on us, at least not for me, other than the pressure people put on themselves. We just go out and keep doing what we’ve been doing and everything else will fall into place. We know what we expect of ourselves and what we want to achieve and the results will come. It’s not something we think about and it’s not as if we haven’t defended a title before, look at the Home Internationals, where we’ll be going for four in a row later this year.
It’s a nice set-up being on the GUI panels and there’s no reason why we couldn’t do it again but that’s a way off still, there’s a long season ahead and there are other events to think about right now.
After Sotogrande, myself, Stuart and Kevin head straight to St Andrews for The R&A Foundation Scholars Tournament, also known as the R&A Bursar’s, on April 3 and 4, and that’s another big college tournament for UK and Ireland players, with the winner getting a spot on the Palmer Cup team to play the best US college golfers later in the year.