Peter Finnan and John Craven of this Parish joined forces to interview the newly crowned Irish Amateur Open champion, Peter O’Keeffe in this week’s Irish Golfer podcast. It was hugely entertaining, thought provoking and informative.
Also, the winner of the Munster Stroke-Play and Irish Close at Tullamore in August, O’Keeffe has had a brilliant year. The most-winningest year by an Irish Amateur since Padraig Harrington in 1995, it must be said. Even Rory McIlroy did not achieve the ‘big double’ of Open and Close in the same year.
So much so, that Peter had no need to be shy about expressing his strongly held ambition to play in the Walker Cup at The Old Course, St. Andrews in September 2023 during the podcast. I’ll be honest. I was taken aback at first. Forty-plus year olds do not play for GB&I in the Walker Cup anymore, but then I thought: Why shouldn’t they?
I may have figured out what Peter was up to throwing a curve ball at the selectors so early in a process that probably hasn’t even begun yet? He may be hoping to garner enough public support behind him allied with the cooperation of the Irish golf media to push his name forward as a viable Walker Cup candidate.
I’m sure any British selectors won’t know or want to know. They’ll say his age (40 in November) is against him. Not sure what the current Chairman of Selectors, Irishman Paraic Hogan and Golf Ireland can do about that, but they’ll find themselves under acute pressure from within their own ranks and the golf public, in general, if another Irishman with an inferior pedigree is selected and O’Keeffe isn’t.
As the Irish Close and Open Amateur champion, Peter O’Keeffe would have to be selected today. My long experience in the game informs me that a young golfer of 19 might not be worth his place on any team at 21 whereas a 39-years old, would be the same player (if not better) at 41, provided he was competing regularly. Besides, a senior citizen or two provides stability and balance to any team.
I don’t blame Peter for taking this course of action and would support him to the hilt. Selectors can be a forgetful and inept bunch, stuck in their ways of pursuing a youth policy to the detriment of fairness and putting the best team on the field.
One reason is the Walker Cup selectors obsession with WAGR points. I was delighted to hear Peter O’Keeffe say he ‘pays no attention whatsoever to WAGR’. Wins are more important. He is in the golfing shape of his life, and his haul of silverware is the testament. Make no mistake, there’ll be no resting on laurels. O’Keeffe wants his name on more trophies. It is easily the best way to impress selectors who should look beyond the WAGR points table and pick winners. During the podcast it was pointed out that players can have a poor performance scrubbed if they inform WAGR that they are withdrawing BEFORE they complete their first round – very odd, I must say!
Peter O’Keeffe is a proven winner. If he can keep winning, then everything will take care of itself. Team GB&I would do well to follow the example of the Americans and adopt their rule that at least two mid-amateurs (golfers over 35-years of age) MUST BE selected on their team. Results prove it hasn’t done them any harm – why should it? If you are good enough, it doesn’t matter what age you are.
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