Waterford hurling great Paul Flynn is hoping that ignorance is bliss when he makes his championship debut in the Radisson Blu sponsored West of Ireland Amateur Open at Rosses Point today.
The 38-year-old retired from top flight hurling when Waterford lost to Kilkenny in the 2008 All-Ireland final at Croke Park but he’s still got a taste for competition and as a scratch player from Tramore Golf Club he’s keeping his fingers crossed that his lack of local knowledge will be a blessing in disguise as he bids to qualify for Sunday’s first match-play round.
“I’ve never been to Rosses Point before so I’m hoping that ignorance might help,” joked Flynn, who won a Munster Senior Cup pennant with Tramore last season.
“I’ve heard so much about Rosses Point and I’m really looking forward to it. Fingers crossed I am still talking as positively about it next Monday because it’s going to be cold and very challenging.”
So strong is the entry for this year’s “West” that the handicap cut-off fell at an all-time low. Flynn is delighted just to have made the field and while he is a vastly experienced sportsman having played inter-county hurling for 15 years as well as a season in goal for League of Ireland side Waterford United, he knows that it’s going to be a major mental challenge.
“I had some idea what I was doing with the hurling but it wasn’t as tough mentally as golf,” he said. “Hurling is so quick it is instinctive and your decisions are made for you a lot of the time.
“You just don’t have time to think about your next move, you’re just pushed into reactions and it is all over before you know it. In golf you hit it and have 250 yards to think about your next shot.
“Hopefully I can take some of the experience I have gathered from playing sport and remember that that is all it is, it’s just sport.”
With the exception of British Amateur champion Alan Dunbar, who is preparing for the Masters, all the leading Irish internationals are taking part, headed by plus five handicapper Richard O’Donovan from Lucan who was last year’s leading qualifier.
There are no fewer than 89 players off plus one or better but all eyes will be on the likes of O’Donovan, Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy, Headfort’s Rory McNamara, Claremorris’ Stephen Healy, who lost to Harry Diamond in last year’s final, or Mourne’s Reeve Whitson, the recently crowned Spanish Amateur Open champion.
The 21-year-old son of long-serving Royal County Down professional Kevan, Whitson has set his sights on making September’s Walker Cup side.
“I had two goals at the beginning of the season, to win and to make the Walker Cup team,” Whitson said. “Now that I’ve got the win, it’s all about trying to make that team by continuing to play well throughout the season.”
The opening tee shot falls to 17-year old schoolboy Charles McGoldrick Jnr, son of the late Enniscrone professional Charlie, who was one of three players to emerge from the inaugural, 18-hole pre-qualifier on Wednesday, where he and County Sligo’s Shane Underwood and Cairndhu’s Stephen Watts shot two over 73s to earn their places on the first tee at 7am today. Strandhill Adrian Wynne, who was first reserve after shooting 74 in the qualifier, got into the field yesterday when County Louth’s Gerard Dunne withdrew.
* See tee off times in Results section.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved