t’s been a mixed time on the course, with a couple of disappointing results. The effects of Brexit on the equine industry have played their part. That was the title of my thesis, which I’ve just submitted. Now that’s done and my final exams have been completed, I can clear my head for a real attack on the golfing season.
I played the Lytham Trophy and the Irish Amateur in the middle of my exams and it was tough knowing I had so much studying to do. The exams went okay, but it was tough fitting an international golf schedule round them. Let’s just say I’d be happy not to ever sit an exam again.
The time management aspect was tricky, balancing exam study and my golf schedule. My thesis was done over a couple of months and it meant I didn’t get out and practice as much as I would have liked and when the exams came, I couldn’t get out at all.
My Lytham Trophy performance was still disappointing. It was played in brutal conditions on a tough links golf course and things just didn’t go my way on the opening day as I shot an 83 in 70kph gusts of wind. I played okay on the second day and shot a 76, which doesn’t sound too good but wasn’t actually that bad on such a tough golf course in tough conditions again.
In contrast, Royal County Down was absolutely amazing for the following week’s Flogas Irish Amateur Open. It was one of the best amateur tournaments I’ve played, the golf course was fantastic for the week — the condition of it and the spectacular scenery — and I was good enough to be in contention going into the final round. It was a decent performance on the Sunday but the putter went a bit cold on me and I was happy enough with my finish, tying for 16th place, considering I missed the cut the previous week.
I have to say I was delighted for the winner at RCD. Peter O’Keeffe is a good friend of mine and he’s one of the good guys. I’ve got a lot of time for Peter, had some nice conversations with him in the past. He’s been there and done that as a touring pro and he’s always been good to talk to, so it was really pleasing to see that the hard work has paid off for him.
I’d like to see Peter kick on now for the rest of the season after winning on that course and against a top-class field. I think he’s looking to play a couple of international tournaments and it will be interesting to see how he gets on. I don’t think he’ll have a problem, he’s a great player and it should be good fun having another Munster man out there.
I’m still happy with the way I’m playing but unfortunately last weekend’s Brabazon Trophy did not go to plan. The English Amateur was played at Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire, where England Golf train, and it was a really nice layout, a tough track, but it was not the result I was looking for.
I played really nicely in the first round with a five-under 68, and in there was also my first hole in one, coming on the fifth hole — 163 yards, 8 iron. So I was really happy with my first round, being up there in contention but the lack of practice and competitive golf in recent weeks came through in the second round, where I shot an 83.
I struggled from the start of the round, four over through five before a bridie at six. I dropped a further three shots on seven and eight. Nothing seemed to be going my way at all and I felt I was chasing my own tail all day. But I’ve put that behind me now and stayed on at Woodhall Spa to do some practice over the weekend.
I’m just starting into a week off now and I’ll be playing plenty of golf too, in preparation for the St Andrews Links Trophy next week.
Otherwise, my plan is to just chill out. I’m addicted to watching the box set of Suits at the moment, I just want to watch another episode the minute the last one finishes and I’m on season six already.
I can’t wait to get over there to Scotland. It’s one of my favourite tournaments of the year, playing the Old Course, and I’m really looking forward to it. It means I’ll be doing some practice as well this week and seeing my coaches with the British Amateur and the European Individual Championships coming up soon after St Andrews.
The British Amateur this year is at Royal St George’s, where Darren Clarke won the 2011 Open Championship. It’s another links course I really enjoy playing and I came fifth there in a tournament a couple of years ago and this time around we’ll also be playing Prince’s, the links next door on the Kent coast.
To be able to play these great courses as well as St Andrews, and having already played Lytham and Co. Down this past month, we really are spoiled with the courses we play. They certainly aren’t easy places to play but they are very enjoyable and we’re very privileged.
We’re also rounding out the month at Walton Heath in Surrey for the Europeans and there’s a really top-class field there this year, with a cut-off of 400 on the World Amateur Golf Rankings after attracting a lot of United States players over, so it’s another event to look forward to.
And with three big tournaments in a row coming up, I know I’m going to be grateful for taking this week off. And watching a few more episodes of Suits...