Three years since his last Irish Open appearance, former European Tour winner, Damien McGrane returns to the main stage of European golf for another tilt at his national open.
The Carlow golfer, who won last year’s Irish PGA Championship, earned his place to compete this week alongside fellow Irish PGA pro, Colm Moriarty but admits he has no expectations when it comes to mixing it with some of the game’s best from Thursday at Galgorm.
“I’ve nothing to lose so I’ve come here to give it a smash and see what happens,” said McGrane.
“The game has changed and moved on. I never thought I’d see the day that the game would take another giant step forward. The new players on the range are pumping it out there – distance mania has come around again.
“I played with Padraig [Harrington] today [Wednesday] and he’s hitting the ball further than I’ve ever seen him so yeah, the game has moved on really… but it’s nice to be here.
“To be fair to Galgorm, the place is fantastic, the greens are beautiful, fairways are good and you’d never have thought there was a Challenge Tour event here two weeks ago so all credit to Galgorm.”
It wasn’t quite a sobering pre-tournament experience as the Kells man entered the European Tour ‘bubble’ but there was enough evidence to suggest that McGrane’s new role in the pro shop at Carlow suits him better than the grind of Tour fairways at this stage in his career.
“My spell is over – the game has moved on,” added McGrane.
“I’m very thankful for what I had as long as I had it. Some of the old faces are still here working hard and they have the desire which I don’t have. Without a lot of hard work it’s not possible to survive here anymore.
“More luck to the guys out there – they have the passion. You can still see them here working on their putting the day before on a Wednesday afternoon whereas I’m just trying to exit the building as fast as possible.
“I’m in a different place. I’m probably the oldest player in the field. I need to appreciate that and understand that and take it for what it is. I’m not looking for a miracle. I’m just hoping to maybe find a bit of form and play half-decent and I’ll be happy with that.
“I’m playing at an athlete’s level when I’m way outside of match-fit even to compete. I’m just going to try and play my own game and see what I can rack up.”
But the competitor in McGrane, a former European Tour winner, must awaken somewhat walking into an ultra-competitive main tour environment? Surely when the European Tour rolls into town, with the prizes on offer, the golfer inside him is bursting to get out and test himself against the best, even for just four more rounds…
“No, I’m a realist,” he says. “When I come here I realise these people – all they do is play golf, all they do is practice. Unfortunately my golf days are behind me. I don’t do any prep anymore, so I’m here hoping for the best.”
McGrane tees off at 10.05am this morning.
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