Robin Dawson might be the world No 98 and a recent star performer in the Bonallack Trophy but he admits he’d love to add an amateur “major” to his trophy cabinet should he eventually make the move into the professional ranks.
The 22-year-old from Tramore has come close before, losing to Chris Selfridge in the final of the North of Ireland at Portrush in 2014.
That was just a year after he made his debut at Rosses Point as a raw 16-year-old, only falling to defending champion Harry Diamond in the quarter-finals.
Diamond now caddies for Rory McIlroy and Dawson is now the elder statesman for his 17-year old brother Charlie, who came through an eight-man playoff for the last five spots of the 12 that were on offer in Wednesday’s 18-hole qualifier to take his place in the 126-strong field.
With little light given the early date, there will be a shotgun start today and tomorrow with the leading 64 qualifying for matchplay combat on Sunday.
Dawson hopes he’s still going strong for Tuesday afternoon’s final but when asked he’s ever taken time out to study the big board listing the former West of Ireland champions in the doorway, he shook his head.
“You try not to get caught up in thinking about that sort of thing,” he said.
What about the trophy, which is gleaming on a table next to a picture of the late GUI and West of Ireland stalwart Fred Perry?
“Oh, the trophy caught my eye alright,” Dawson said with a chuckle.
Dawson has been around long enough to know that given the vagaries of the weather and the matchplay format, the West is the most unpredictable of the amateur championships.
“I don’t get caught up in that sort of stuff,” the senior Dawson said. “Obviously, I’d love to win one of the Irish championships but I just have to take it one day at a time and see how we go.”
As one of eight members of the Irish panel in the field, Dawson is highly fancied to win with with Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell forced to sit out the event with a wrist injury and Maynooth University stars Caolan Rafferty and Ronan Mullarney playing the R&A Scholars Tournament.
Castle’s Alex Gleeson, Irish Amateur Open champion Peter O’Keeffe, defending champion Barry Anderson, the in-form 2016 winner Jonathan Yates and 17-year old Irish Boys champion Mark Power are also regarded as men to beat as is Massereene’s Tiarnan McLarnon.
For Dawson, it’s a big event but just one of many he’ll play this year as he plays amateur golf full time before a likely reappearance at the European Tour Qualifying School.
After playing for Ireland in Argentina and South Africa in January and February before representing Great Britain and Ireland in the Bonallack Trophy in Qatar, it’s almost a shock to the system to be facing the wild West wind as one of the title favourites.
“After the Bonallack Trophy I went to Sydney for a few weeks holiday, and I was playing in shorts and a tee shirt,” he said before tucking into a bowl of Rosses Point chowder. “This is a bit different, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Irish Boys champion Power, 17, is hoping for better luck than he had two years ago when he shot 89 in a gale on the first day and never got a chance to redeem himself “It was when the second qualifying round was cancelled because of the wind so I didn’t make it to the matchplay,” he said with a chuckle. “But the course is playing nice and quite soft. And the greens are lovely for this time of year.
“Alex and Robin have to be two of the favourites but it’s matchplay and anyone could win once you get into matchplay. I’m really looking forward to it.”
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