Kelan McDonagh confessed that golf has been put firmly in perspective by his girlfriend’s brave battle with cancer after he opened with a battling 72 to keep the leaders in his sights in the Irish Amateur Open at Royal Dublin.
The 22-year old Athlone man, who graduated from NUI Maynooth through the Paddy Harrington Golf Scholarship scheme last year, set the early pace before finishing the day alone in fifth place, two shots behind joint leaders Simon Ward of Baltray and Masserene’s Tiarnan McLarnon.
McDonagh’s girlfriend, 22-year old Claire Condron, is in a Dublin hospital recovering from a bone marrow transplant after being diagnosed with cancer in January.
And her illness means the former Irish Youths and Mullingar Scratch Cup winner no longer gets as frustrated by his poor golf as he showed when he overcame tough conditions to give himself a chance of making the cut for the first time in Ireland’s premier event.
“It’s put golf in perspective big time,” confessed McDonagh, who has moved from Athlone to Kilcock to be nearer his girlfriend. “Over the years I’d throw away a few shots here and there just by getting annoyed but now it doesn’t really matter where the ball goes as long as I can find it again. It puts everything in perspective.
“She had her bone marrow transplant two weeks ago so she’s looking pretty good for coming out the other end.
“I’m living in Kilcock at the moment, so that’s kind of got me in a routine every day. I joined Carton House, I’m playing there in the mornings, go into the gym in the afternoon and then go in to her in the evenings.
“It’s a kind of built-in rigid routine every week and it’s kind of helping my golf. You just get on with it, whether you make par, birdie or bogey, it doesn’t matter. You just walk to the next tee anyway.”
Former international Ward and 20-year old University of Ulster student McLarnan, fired two under 70’s to lead by a stroke from 18-year old Ballymena star Dermot McElroy and 20 year old New Yorker Mike Miller.
European Amateur Open champion Manuel Trappel of Portugal is tied for sixth after a 73 while title favourite and world No 7, Daan Huizing of the Netherlands is lurking just four shots off the pace after a two over 74.
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