Irish team captain Tony Goode has backed late call-ups Robin Dawson and Rowan Lester to make the most of the opportunities handed to them by the withdrawals of Paul Dunne and Gary Hurley from next week’s Home International defence at Royal Portrush.
Hurley and Open Championship hero Dunne, both members and foursomes partners in Ireland’s Triple Crown triumph last year at Southerndown GC in Wales, pulled out of the Irish side at the weekend in order to compete alongside Cormac Sharvin as part of an unprecedented three-man contingent at the US Amateur.
The trio will travel to Olympia Fields near Chicago for the prestigious amateur major with the full blessing of the Golfing Union of Ireland and while Goode said they would be missed at Portrush, their absence represented an open door for 19-year-old duo Dawson (Faithlegg/Maynooth University) and Lester (Hermitage).
Speaking from Penati in Slovakia as Dunne, Hurley and Sharvin prepared with the Ireland squad for the European Individual Amateur Championship, starting tomorrow, Goode told the Irish Examiner: “They’re a great bunch of lads, great to work with and we’ll miss them. Having said that it’s a great honour for the Union to have three representatives at the US Amateur. I think it’s the first time in the history of Irish golf, certainly in my time in the GUI that we’ve had three representatives at the US Amateur.
“We’ll miss them at the Home Internationals but it also gives an opportunity for the younger players to get the experience because they’re the guys of the future. It’s a building exercise for me for the next few years and it brings the younger guys in a bit earlier. So there’s positives as well as negatives.
“Robin hasn’t had a great year on the golf course but at the same time golf is not a game you can just dial up. He’s a very enthusiastic lad, he’s shown great spirit and he certainly appreciates the call and is very much up for it.
“I’m very confident he’ll certainly give it his best and hopefully it works out for him. Rowan’s a very hard worker and he’s very mature for his age. He is ‘ahead of himself’ for want of a better phrase in terms of maturity. He’s very focused on the golf course, one of the most focused players we have. His preparation, demeanour and whole game is first class. I’m delighted to have him on board.”
The six-man official Irish squad, also featuring fellow Walker Cup hopefuls Irish Amateur Open champion Gavin Moynihan and Jack Hume as well as West of Ireland champion Dermot McElroy, are joined in Penati by a quartet of compatriots, including Dawson. The others are South of Ireland winner Stuart Grehan, Alex Gleeson and Richard Bridges.
Hurley finished third in last year’s European at St Andrews, two shots behind winner Ashley Chesters while McElroy was tied ninth and Goode has high hopes for the GUI squad this week over 72 holes of stroke play.
“I’m very optimistic. There’s a good squad here and I’d expect some of them to do very well. Of the six guys I have here, they’re all capable of winning it. They all have the talent.”
It is not just Ireland’s men in action this week. The GUI also send a Boys side into competition, as do the ILGU with a Girls squad, in their respective Home Internationals.
The Boys begin their bid for glory today in north Wales with a panel from the four provinces taking on defending champions England, Scotland and Wales at Conwy over the next three days in this annual round robin.
Each match comprises five morning foursomes followed by 10 afternoon singles.
Ireland open against last year’s hosts Scotland today in a meeting of the two countries who narrowly lost out to the English at Western Gailes in 2014. The Irish team features five players from those matches including last year’s R&A Junior Open Champion Kevin LeBlanc, from The Island.
The Irish Girls swing into action at Lanark Golf Club in Scotland tomorrow hoping to finally get the better of perennial champions England having run them close on home soil at Donabate last year.
The English have won the Stroyan Cup 13 times out of the last 15 and for seven years in a row but having given the eventual winners their toughest challenge 12 months ago before settling for second place, Ireland’s eight-strong team will be confident they can win the Girls Home Internationals for the first time this week.
The format will see three foursomes followed by six singles in each match during the three-day round-robin tournament and Ireland’s current strength at U18 level is such that girls team members Olivia Mahaffey, Julie McCarthy, Niamh McSherry and Annabel Wilson will also be on the Irish team for the Ladies Home Internationals in September.
Ireland Girls (Home Internationals):
Ciara Casey (Hermitage), Elisa Corcoran (Grange), Mairead Martin (Killarney), Julie McCarthy (Forrest Little), Niamh McSherry (Lurgan), Olivia Mehaffey (Royal County Down Ladies), Lisa O’Shea (Shannon), Annabel Wilson (Lurgan).
Ireland Boys (Home Internationals):
Conor Purcell (Portmarnock), Kevin LeBlanc (The Island), Thomas Mulligan (Co Louth), Peter Kerr (Royal Portrush), Cathal Butler (Kinsale), Marc McKinstry (Cairndhu), Marc Norton (Belvoir Park), Marc Boucher (Carton House), Devin Morley (Oughterard), Alan Fahy (Bray), Rory Williamson (Holywood).
While golf’s movers and shakers continue to grapple with the problem of falling participation and how to get more people to play the game, an Irish family is busy putting their solutions into practice.
Of course owning an estate which plays host to one of the largest golf complexes in Ireland is a help but credit to the Gaisford-St Lawrence family at Howth Castle for their innovations to make the sport more accessible.
Not content with turning over some of their Deer Park Golf complex in North County Dublin to Footgolf over the past 12 months, the family last week opened a Poc Fada Golf course, giving the world a new game combining hurling and golf. It is a concept developed by Julian Gaisford-St Lawrence, who enlisted the help of David Caulfield of Beann Eadair GAA and former Dublin hurling manager Humphrey Kelleher, chairman of the National Poc Fada Committee.
Just like conventional golf, each hole carries a par and the aim is to get the ball into the hole in as few shots as possible. The difference is that players use a hurley to hit a sliotar into an enlarged hole.
The Dublin Minor hurlers played Deer Park’s FootGolf course with hurleys and sliotars in the spring and Kelleher said that Poc Fada Golf had a great future.
“We in the GAA are delighted to endorse the imagination and initiative undertaken by the Gaisford-St Lawrence family in introducing Poc Fada Golf. The concept links the two ancient games of hurling and golf in a very new setting, overlooking Ireland’s Eye.
“It’s a fun game that incorporates a number of hurling skills including striking from the hand, lifting and striking from the ground and the art of sideline pucks. I have no doubt that this game will go from strength to strength,” Kelleher said.
Cork Golf Club will host the next tournament on the Irish PGA professionals’ schedule -the Cork Pro-Am — at Little Island on August 10. Last week’s Oughterard Pro-Am was wiped out by bad weather at the Galway club. That event is now rescheduled for September 25, the penultimate tournament before the season-ending LowFuelCard.ie Irish PGA Championship takes place in Dundalk from October 1 to 4. Clontarf GC’s Eamonn Brady currently leads the 2015 PGA in Ireland Order of Merit on 13,308.25, less than 1000 points ahead of Waterville’s David Higgins (12,44.59) with Colm Moriarty (Drive Golf Performance Limited) third on 10,204.73.
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