Going full-time at amateur level

So near and yet so far. It was very disappointing coming so close to making it through to the next round of the European Tour Q-School, but the upshot is my professional ambitions are on hold for a year and I have an opportunity to dedicate a year to elite amateur golf.

That’s a real positive, because I’m interested to see how good I can be if I focus purely on golf rather than trying to balance that side of my life with college, as I have for the last four years at Maynooth University.

I’ll return to that, but I should explain how this all unravelled. I went to the first round of Q-School at Ribagolfe in Portugal and missed out on qualification. Not by much, just four shots, which works out at one shot per round, which is nothing really, but those fine margins have major consequences.

I hit some poor drives in the last round early on and was struggling at four over through seven holes. I got it back to level par at the 17th, but unfortunately bogeyed the last. I knew I needed to go out and break 70 and it’s frustrating that I didn’t, but it was good to have done it. I really enjoyed being in that environment, under the gun. My scoring was okay, but if a few more putts had gone my way and dropped it could have been a different story. It’s definitely something that will stand to me and I’ll be a better player for it next year, that’s for sure.

I’m not one to dwell on it, I’m an ‘in it to win it’ type of person and don’t like that ‘isn’t it great to be here and taking part’ rubbish. We’re all there to win, so it was very frustrating, but I’ll definitely be better prepared for it next year.

So, I’ll take notes on where I have to improve my game, because, when you’re under the gun like that and have to perform, it really exposes the parts of your game that you need to improve on. I know what those things are and will be working hard over the next couple of months, to pick up one or two shots around the greens and improve my driving, which has been quite good all year, but was pretty average out in Portugal.

I’m meeting with my coach Noel Fox this week to sit down and sort out a plan for 2018, such as the tournaments I’m going to play. As I said, I’m going to give a year to full-time amateur golf and try reach some goals. What those are, I’ll be discussing with Noel, but giving myself a year of amateur golf will allow me to see how far I can go, because it has been tough at times doing my degree as well as playing golf at the top level.

It will be nice to put all my eggs in one basket, playing golf and knowing I have my degree. It was a big boost being named on the GUI men’s panel for 2018 last week. The GUI is fantastic in the support they give us. Alex Gleeson and I are heading to Argentina for the South American Amateur in January and when we come back we go to South Africa for a couple of weeks, so we have a really nice schedule of warm-weather golf coming up for the winter months.

It’s tough for a golfer here in Ireland over the winter and not something I enjoy too much, but between now and then I’ve got myself a short-term job with Irish Distillers to keep myself ticking away while it’s cold and wet. It’s difficult to concentrate on the golf when it’s so miserable here, so the job will keep me busy to the end of December.

I will be playing and practising and my home course at Tramore is still in excellent condition, as good as it was during the summer, despite the attentions of Ophelia and Storm Brian. We’re spoiled, because the greens and the fairways are lovely and all the members look after the course so well.

I played Bunclody last Friday with the former Waterford hurler Paul Flynn, Chris Butler, and John Mitchell, who’s on the Irish Seniors team, so we had a nice fourball, with the internationals, myself and John, taking the honours. It’s fun to play with the lads like that. Also, I’m ticking over with my gym work, seeing my trainer and Ireland team-mate Peter O’Keeffe, who’s set me up with a gym programme.

As I wrote last time, having those support systems in place, with Peter, Noel, and Neil Manchip, will be very important to me over the next 12 months. It was pretty obvious to me that if I didn’t get through Q-School I was going to stay amateur. I feel you really need to dominate amateur golf before you can make the next move, so there was no point in me going pro at this stage. I have half a head screwed onto my shoulders, so hopefully I’ll make the right decisions and they’re all going to be a great help to me in that regard. One tournament at a time.


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