Dermot McElroy is hoping for another big week on home soil when the Irish Challenge gets underway on the K Club’s Palmer South course on Thursday.
Nobody fared better in front of the home faithful in 2021 than McElroy who scooped the Christy O’Connor Jnr award as the leading Irishman when finishing tied-fourth at Portmarnock Links.
“It gave me a lot of confidence,” the Ballymena man admits, who went on to win the EuroPro Tour’s Cubefinder Championship last year before adding a second title this season at the CPG Classic.
“It was my first event of the season but I went in playing well and now I know that when I play well, I’m going to be right up there and that’s really important.”
The EuroPro Tour regular, who also earns his Irish Challenge invite by virtue of his Team Ireland status, admits he’s eager to make the jump to the Challenge Tour sooner rather than later.
The most obvious avenue is via the EuroPro Tour’s Order of Merit where five cards are on offer with the Ballymena man sitting pretty in top spot and eager to earn promotion having finished seventh on the money-list in 2021.
McElroy is all too aware of how juggling both tours in the meantime can impact his path to the Promised Land, but he’ll hope to have already done enough to secure his Challenge Tour playing privileges, meaning this week’s stage should be the norm in 2023.
“I only missed two EuroPro events last year, one for the European Tour at Galgorm and the other at the Irish Challenge,” McElroy says having tied-39th on Sunday at the German Challenge.
“I ended up finishing seventh on the money-list, two spots off a Challenge Tour card. OK, I was three grand behind but potentially that could’ve made the difference last year.
“So there’s always that little bit of a dilemma getting these opportunities but at the same time, the more chances I get on the Challenge Tour this season, the more chance I’ll get to move up the ranks.
“I don’t want to be on the EuroPro Tour – it’s expensive and difficult to attract sponsors – but it’s a tough tour to get off – top-5 is tough going, whereas if you were to win on invite on Challenge Tour, all of a sudden you have a two-year exemption.
“I’m grateful to have another chance to do something like that this year at The K Club. If I’m playing well going into it, I think I’ll have every chance.”
Admission to the K Club to watch the home stars in action at the Irish Challenge is absolutely free.
- Register for tickets HERE