Ireland intend to take full advantage of playing for the Eisenhower Trophy on home soil this week after getting their men’s 2018 World Amateur Team Championships title bid up and running in style at Carton House.
Amateur Championship runner-up Robin Dawson led the hosts into overnight second place after round one of the 72-hole strokeplay event to put the Irish in a great position to at least emulate their previous best Eisenhower finish, a bronze medal in Mexico in 2016.
The three-man Irish team of Tramore’s Dawson, Kinsale’s John Murphy and Portmarnock’s Conor Purcell will start today’s second round from 12.15pm from 10 under par, two strokes behind leaders Denmark, with both nations set to play the O’Meara course after successfully negotiating the Montgomerie layout in perfect conditions on day one in Kildare.
World amateur-ranked number eight Dawson, 22, set the pace for the home team, as he shot a seven-under-par 65 for a share of fourth place in the individual standings, two behind 18-hole leader Rayhan Thomas of India, whose nine-under 64 came on the O’Meara.
Both St Andrews Links Trophy winner Murphy, 20, and Purcell, 21, were also in red numbers, each posting an opening three-under 69, though with only the two lowest scores counting towards the team total, just one of their rounds will contribute.
Not that anyone in the high-spirited Ireland camp was complaining yesterday, as they reflected on a good day’s work on familiar turf at the home of the Golfing Union of Ireland headquarters, with talk of being under pressure because of playing at home under the spotlight thoroughly dismissed.
“I don’t think there is any pressure on us,” Dawson said. “We’re the one with the advantage. I don’t understand people saying it is pressure, it is such an advantage, the three of us love playing in front of crowds and feed off of that. So much fun. I really enjoy that.”
Purcell added: “Any time you can play under pressure is somewhat a privilege to be in that position and to have all the spotlight on us, if you get a clap for hitting a good shot, it pulls us on. Once you get into the flow of things, pressure becomes non-existent and you are just playing your game.”
Murphy said GUI head coach Neil Manchip had put them in the right frame of mind on the eve of the tournament, telling the trio: “‘Playing in your home country is pretty special.’ We are all enjoying what we have this week, a week that we’ll never be forgetting and to enjoy everything. Try and keep going now.”
The Kinsale golfer added: “It was a really good day. We’re all in good form, all playing well and really excited for the week ahead.
“We got the tough bit out of the way and that was getting started, getting into it with all the home expectations, so now we can just stay in cruise mode and see what happens in the next few days.”
Both Murphy and Purcell delivered strong rounds after sticky starts as Ireland’s golfers, each playing alongside partners from defending champions Australia and the highly-ranked United States, while Dawson, who will turn professional after next week’s Home Internationals, was in excellent form throughout his bogey-free seven-under first round, particularly with his putting. Three monster birdie putts found the cup, starting with a 54-footer on the par-three 12th, his second hole of the round, then a 36-footer at the par-five 15th, before a 51-footer at the par-four sixth.
“You have to hit it good to even get there,” said Dawson. “My all-round game was decent today. I gave myself a lot of opportunities and I managed to take a lot of them. Funnily enough, I didn’t actually birdie the easier holes. That’s the way golf is, sometimes. Delighted with my score.”
No-one was more pleased than Ireland team manager John ‘Blondie’ Carroll.
“I’m delighted with the start we made. I couldn’t ask for any more on day one,” said the Bandon GC man.
“Fantastic golf and we’re certainly looking forward to the next few days. Today is only day one. Tomorrow is a new day again. We’ll start from fresh again tomorrow morning and hopefully something similar tomorrow. The boys are playing well and they have been for a long time.”