Peter O’Keeffe is hoping he can find the spark to his season this week as he begins his defence of the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship today at The Island.
O’Keeffe etched his name into Irish golfing folklore when he became the first man since Pádraig Harrington to win the Irish Open and Close double in October. The 2022 season hasn’t been as trophy-laden thus far for the Douglas native, but he believes he has started to show glimpses of his best golf and perhaps this could be the week he clicks into gear.
“I don’t have many expectations based on my results this year, but I know myself how quickly a season can turn around,” he said.
“I was pretty poor at the start of the season last year and then I picked up nice momentum in the South and the North and then the end of the season was obviously fab. So I am just applying the same stuff as I normally do.
“I haven’t been playing well in the early part of the season, European Nations Cup, West of Ireland, showing kind of glimpses but I’m very much a feel player. I had a good morning in Portmarnock on Friday with Noel [Fox] and spent a good few hours going through a lot of stuff and felt really good coming away from that.
“I’m a notoriously a slow starter so if I get a couple of events under my belt and get some tempo or whatever then I’m getting readier as the season goes on. So I suppose we’ll see how I click this week.”
While results haven’t been forthcoming on the course, life is good off it for O’Keeffe who has the pleasant headache of his thriving Golf Strong business hampering his practice time. This was evident when the 40-year-old addressed the media via a zoom link perched on top of an exercise ball having just completed a class.
The former Challenge Tour pro hailed winning the Irish double as his greatest achievement when reflecting on last year’s playoff victory over Switzerland’s Nicola Gerhardsen, and he is relishing the prospect of winning back-to-back Irish Amateur titles and his third in total.
“When I won the Close it was fantastic in the way I won it, it was amazing. And then the biggest achievement for me was knowing I had a chance to do something special, I suppose, and then went on and did it. That’s something that will stay with me as long as I’m playing golf,” he said.
“It’s something I’ll look back on for years to come but it’s absolutely super to win the Irish Amateur again, it was the first event I won after coming back from being a pro and I have some emotional attachment to the trophy so it’s almost like I try extra hard because I really want to win that event as much as I can.”
“I’ve had the trophy at home for the last while so you kind of get attached to these things but I’ll be bringing it up on Wednesday morning and just looking forward now to getting into my nice relaxed state before the event.
“It’s a course that’s going to test everyone but if I can find some kind of form like I did last year I should be okay. That’s always the thing about trying to chase form or find form going into a tournament but I’m looking forward to it.”
O’Keeffe is a steely veteran on the amateur scene and has seen it all either side of his six-year stint as a professional.
Formats and schedules have been at the tip of everyone’s tongue this season with the West and North adopting new championship formats and O’Keeffe feels any aspiring professionals would be better prepared if there was a priority on having strokeplay events, believing they reward the player playing the best golf.
“You could say there is an absence of Irish players on Tour at the moment,” he noted. “I think amateur golf is strong, the level is decent. I would love to see the Irish events all go to strokeplay to get bigger and more competitive fields into this country and that would give us a taste of what’s out there.
“If you put the Irish field into American events we would get a serious wake-up call as to what the levels are, and for me to become a professional golfer to be aware of what the level is, is massive and that might be missing a bit.
“Over time, the North of Ireland will end up as the strongest event on a British Open course, they are heading down the Lytham Trophy road hopefully.
“If Ireland had a Lytham Trophy equivalent where we were going to get the best field every year it would really stand to us. Scheduling is so difficult and in an ideal world nothing would clash and we would get the best fields for every event but for me the start is removing the match play, 64 is too much.
“There was a lot spoken about the West. I actually liked that format because it brings in that element of grind that fellas are going to face at Q-School, they need to be able to cope with that. You can see that after round one I was 25th and an hour later I was 13th.
“There’s a lot of bad stuff that happens guys in the space of an hour. There’s a skillset that needs to be in players to cope with that so I think changing the format to strokeplay brings out who the tougher players are and that will stand to them if they go the professional route,” added O’Keeffe who admitted his surprise at the absence of a number of GB&I players from the field.
The Bridgestone Order of Merit winner gets the defence of his title underway today at 08:11 alongside Castleknock’s Paul Coughlan and Scotland’s Robbie Muir.
- Full scoring HERE