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.”