Dave O’Donovan may be from a neighbouring club, but felt very much at home when he lifted the Lee Valley Senior Scratch Cup 12 months ago.
Muskerry Golf Club’s O’Donovan will defend his title this weekend at an event now sponsored by EMC and carrying World Amateur Golf Rankings for the first time, bringing an even more competitive field to Lee Valley than the one he faced last season.
Regardless of the outcome, though, O’Donovan’s 2015 win was special. He had helped Muskerry to All-Ireland success at Carton House the previous year with their Barton Shield triumph but to win at Lee Valley was an individual moment to savour.
His mother Adrienne is a Lee Valley member and O’Donovan’s late brother Morgan got his start as a PGA professional at the Cork club.
“After many years of trying it was nice to finally get it done,” O’Donovan, 38, said.
“I’d targetted this one big time, my mum is a member here, my mother in law is a member here, my brother started his profession as a PGA pro up here as well and we know the Keohanes (club owners) well so we’d have great ties with the place.
“And when it got even more prestigious over the last five or six years it was one I would have loved to have won. It’s always got a good field and a good welcome, a great 54-hole event.”
The wet winter has impacted heavily not just on golf courses in Ireland but on golfers’ preparations and O’Donovan has been no different, only playing his first rounds in the past month and, as a result, his Lee Valley title defence has only recently entered his thinking.
“I’ll definitely try and get in the shake up on the last day. You never know, if you get off to a good start it looks after itself. Get off to a bad start and you’re in trouble. So I have to try and be ready from the word ‘go’ and put up some bit of a defence.
“My game is good, so I’d be hopeful, but you never know until the card is in the pocket. So we’ll see.
“I wouldn’t have huge expectations but I’d still be hopeful. I love this place, it’s a great course and it suits my game.”
The introduction of WAGR points has brought a stellar cast to the Saturday-Sunday tournament with internationals Colm Campbell, a recent West Of Ireland semi-finalist, travelling from Warrenpoint, Naas golfer Conor O’Rourke and Massereene’s Tiernan McLarnan all travelling south to Lee Valley, while Kinsale GC’s Cathal Butler will be a local talent to watch following his recent Fota Island Scratch Cup win.
O’Donovan knows a field hungry for WAGR points has upped the ante but he has different motivations and learned not to be too hungry for success.
“Having won the Barton Shield this last couple of years, I suppose the older you get, in some ways the easier it gets.
“You realise it’s not as important as you once thought it was whereas the younger guys have that pressure.
“They’re practising all winter long to do well and that creates pressure for them.
“That can act as a negative for a lot of those guys that the older guy doesn’t have. Thankfully I’ve a job to go to on a Monday morning regardless of how the golf goes, two boys at home, and that’s a big help to me.
“Last year it was, definitely. I actually didn’t care in that last round whereas I know a few years previously I wouldn’t have been able to hold a club from the pressure alone.
“So I think it’s a slight advantage the older guys have, they can be a bit more relaxed about it than perhaps the younger guys can if they create too much pressure for themselves. That’s what I’m hoping anyway!”
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