Irish international Mark Power will go into today’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open opening round in form and extremely well prepared following an invaluable practice round in the company of Pádraig Harrington and Paul Dunne.
The 20-year-old, on extended home leave after his second US college season with Wake Forest University was delayed until at least the new year, was speaking to the Irish Examiner yesterday as Paul McGinley was offering hope to the Irish trio of amateurs in this week’s field, Power, James Sugrue, and Tom McKibbin.
McGinley sees an ideal opportunity for a repeat of the impact Shane Lowry had on the Irish Open when he won as an amateur at Baltray in 2009.
“This is a great opportunity now to take advantage of an Irish Open where the field is not as strong as previous years, on a course that they’re all familiar with, and compete,” McGinley said. “This is not a big hitters’ golf course, there is local knowledge involved, they are on home soil. The weather is going to be a bit squally and there is an opportunity to do what Shane did.”
McGinley has been keeping tabs on all three amateurs. Of Kilkenny golfer Power he said: “His record in America playing at Wake Forest, one of the top universities, is phenomenal.”
Power has been making up for lost time on this side of the Atlantic, with a runner-up finish at the English Men’s Open Amateur Stroke Play followed by a run to the semi-finals of the Amateur Championship at Royal Birkdale three weeks ago. He then emerged from two-week quarantine on his return from England to claim second at last weekend’s Connacht Stroke Play in Portumna.
“To come so close twice (in England) was encouraging but frustrating at the same time because we all want to win and you want to get your hands on the trophy,” Power said. “I played the Connacht Stroke Play at the weekend and just used that as preparation to sharpen my game up for this week and actually played really nicely, and came second again. So I’m playing nicely.
“You wouldn’t think it but subconsciously when you’re grinding on a tough course like Birkdale, it does wear you down a little bit. Maybe you don’t feel it in your body but mentally maybe a few things go, and if you get out of your rhythm a small bit, you can second guess yourself. So hopefully have a similar attitude this week and try and tough it out and hopefully get all four rounds in.”
Add in some sound advice from three-time major champion Harrington, and Power’s confidence is on a high as he bids to mix it with the professionals at Galgorm Castle.
“They were really nice and absolutely dead on and made it an enjoyable round. I definitely picked up bits and pieces from them, and I was trying to observe their course management. Pádraig made a good point on the last hole, that if you miss one, you’re missing that 30-yard extra run because they’re running so firm. If you’re not using driver the run is such that you could run it into the same spot on the fairway as the driver would go in the rough, which is a really good point. He makes it the simple things you wouldn’t really think of it unless it gets put out there and to hear him say it, it did stick.”