McGrane worried for home players after “miserable” Irish Open affair

Damien McGrane during a practice round ahead of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Damien McGrane had a very stark takeaway from his week at the Irish Open at Galgorm Castle – the depth of home talent that we’ve become used to in this country is no longer there.

Last year’s Irish PGA Champion, who is the Head Professional at Carlow Golf Club, was just one of five home players who made the weekend cut last week in Ballymena, alongside two amateurs, fellow PGA pro Colm Moriarty and European Tour regular Jonathan Caldwell.

It was the latter’s eight-over par total that top scored out of the home contingent and it was an overall Irish performance that left former European Tour winner, McGrane to reflect on the current crop of Irish tour professionals.


“The golden question must be how come the Irish Open last week was a miserable affair for Irish golfers. Miserable,” he told Greg Allen on RTÉ Radio One’s Saturday Sport.

“And it’s disappointing. Our flagship event. I know we’ve all had our challenges with Covid but the Irish Open is meant to be a celebration of Irish golf.

“I probably shouldn’t have been there myself. I was feeling guilty about taking a spot. When I went up there and realised how weak the field was, I quickly got over the fact that I wasn’t robbing anybody of a spot because the field was weak anyway. So I wasn’t doing any tour member an injustice because it probably slid into the Challenge Tour rankings.”

Much had been made pre-tournament that three invites were handed out to amateur players to appear at Galgorm, with Team Ireland professionals overlooked at a time when a pay cheque was never so badly needed amid the decimated schedules of European golf.

However, McGrane suggests that the decision to select Mark Power, James Sugrue and Tom McKibbin speaks volumes for the depth of Irish talent currently grinding it out on Satellite Tours, and that the system is flawed somewhere along the way for a leading amateur looking to make the jump to be a leading pro.

“The company was good but unfortunately the depth is not there anymore,” he added.

“The new men are struggling still to find their feet and struggling to establish themselves on the tour and then the vacuum falls in behind them.

“But for three amateurs to be brought into the field because we don’t have three pros really of good enough quality to make up those three spots I found to be a sad day for Irish golf.

“It was a lonely experience last week with so few Irish players about. Like, an Irish Open is about Irish players featuring and possibly bettering themselves and maybe making a future. But last week there was hardly any fat on the bones. There’s a kink in the system somewhere from leading amateur to leading tour pro.

“The few guys who have made it have made it and made it big but there are too many guys falling by the wayside. I believe that our leading players need to embrace them more, need to help them and nurture them and nurse them along. There are a lot of guys getting caught in the quicksand and disappear. And these are good players.”


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5 responses to “McGrane worried for home players after “miserable” Irish Open affair”

  1. Ivan Morris avatar
    Ivan Morris

    Plenty of talent but it is not being nurtured properly (including tough love) Our competitive structures and national coaching systems need major overhaul. It won’t happen at the stroke of a pen. In Scotland, it has taken years to dig their way out of the fallow years. Same here.

  2. Patrick McMahon avatar
    Patrick McMahon

    Damien Is correct about the lack of young professionals in the Irish Open,I feel this is because the jump from +5 amature to touring professional is to great they don’t survive unless your brilliant or have a good sponsor.
    A touring professional has to learn a new course each week whereas the amature plays the same few courses and knows them well.
    It takes on average about 4 years to get to the main tour and that can be very costly with so many talented players looking for so few spots.
    I know that Sweden,Denmark,Germany and Spain send their top amatures to winter school in Spain,playing different courses and are practically professionals before the turn pro.
    There is to much money paid out at the top,do you really need a £1.5 million first prize for the Open,some of that money should be filtered down to the struggling challenge tours.

  3. Kevin Gallagher avatar
    Kevin Gallagher

    There are just so many superbly talented golfing youth in Europe only the very special will make it on to main Johnathan Caldwell was Rory’s partner in Walker Cup.Absolute gentleman, superb amateur, but has had to work flat out for 8/9 years to get to main tour 2019/20 being his first. Damien is correct the tour stars need to nurture the emerging talent, perhaps they are behind the scenes if so well done. I know that Rory was helped enormously by Darren Clarke in his late amateur days as he transitioned to pro. To be fair I think that the GUI and National coaching staff do a wonderful job. At the end of the day if you are good enough you have a good chance of making it. Maybe the Facebook generation need to work harder and not expect stardom to walk into their lives

  4. Shay Duffy avatar
    Shay Duffy

    We have “dined out” for far too long on the Rory, Graham, Darren and Padraigh Majors. As Damien rightly points out our cupboard is bare? I am waiting to hear Paul McGinley acknowledge the situation in his TV work. In fact he preaches the very opposite, supporting “the we punch way beyond our weight” doctrine.
    But this started more than 20 years ago. First it was Sweden showing us the way from an almost zero base line. More recently Denmark followed and now there is a stampede with Belgium, Holland, France, Germany overtaking us in the Tour stats. We are now just about to be superseded by Finland!
    Apart from Damien, only Des Smyth seems to be taking action.
    We have a serious structural problem. The GUI and LGUI continue to manage the amateur game in an exemplary manner. The IPGA manages the pro game. But it’s remit does not seem to extend beyond the all important club pro. It appears that no one is managing the transition from amateur to Tour Pro.
    We need a new “ Golf Ireland”: a professionally run organisation distinct from the GUI /LGUI and the IPGA and properly funded and established to cater for the transition of our elite men and women to the Pro Tour game. There is no more time to waste. The tide is rapidly receding.

  5. Kevin Gallagher avatar
    Kevin Gallagher

    Re Shays comment, his analysis is interesting. However don’t forget these pros are individuals trying to earn multi millions from a sport for themselves. They are not representing their country or part of a national team so if a transitional management organisation is set up to help them who’s going to fund it.Certainly not government and the average club golfer .The other European countries have played catch up for years and did what the GUI have already done as Shay says Sweden started from scratch. Golf has peaked in Ireland, clubs are closing, like life there will always be peaks and troughs.We can’t expect to be a powerhouse of talent continuously if the game is growing in other countries.

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