In form Irish primed for South African Amateur test

Ronan MacNamara

Matthew McClean (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

It’s a quick turnaround for the Irish in South Africa as they gear up for the South African Amateur Championship from the 19th-24th of February in Mount Edgecombe Country Club.

It’s a format that will be second nature to the Irish with 36 holes of stroke play branching into match play.

Matthew McClean, Hugh Foley, Rob Brazill, Peter O’Keeffe, Robert Moran and Joshua Hill are the Golf Ireland representatives as they look to follow up what was a positive week at the South African Strokeplay.

Galgorm Castle golfer Hill pushed Frenchman Martin Couvra all the way in the South African Strokeplay as he finished runner-up. The Mullingar Scratch Cup winner shot a final round of 68 and held the halfway lead.

US Mid-Am champion McClean will be jetting off to Augusta National next month to tee it up in the Masters in April and he warmed up well with a top-10 finish last time out.

North and South of Ireland champion Foley will be one of Ireland’s front runners for a Walker Cup place alongside McClean in September and the Royal Dublin golfer finished in a share of 26th place last week with Castle golfer Moran who was impressive during his stint in Australia.

Naas man Brazill is back on the scene after some injury struggles and he eased back into action with a 22nd place finish.

The Connacht stroke play champion certainly enjoys playing in that part of Ireland and he is delighted to be back on the Golf Ireland panel for the South African outings as he gears up for a tilt at a second West of Ireland Championship crown in April.

“To get back into the Irish team is a serious reward considering I haven’t played for Ireland since February 2020 and to be back competing with those lads again will be really beneficial for me,” said Brazill. “I wanted to get into the team before next year to keep in the loop over the winter and hit the ground running instead of dusting off the clubs at the West.”

Douglas native O’Keeffe was also selected on the provisional GB&I Walker Cup panel and he got back into action with a 40th place finish. The 2021 Irish Amateur Open and Close winner is eager to use this time to kick into gear as he targets a quick start to the season.

“I’m going to try and make an effort to be competitive earlier in the season which has been a challenge to me in the past just with my business etc,” said the Irish Mid-Am champion. “The year that is in it I owe it to myself to give myself every chance and the people around me and those who helped me with coaching etc, it would be really nice for the Peter O’Keeffe team to achieve that goal.

“Both years I won the Irish Amateur were not Walker Cup years which was unfortunate. It would be lovely to get a bit of form at just the right time. My issue in the past is that I am so busy in the winter that I don’t hit my stride until the middle of the season so I am trying to change that and see can I get flowing a little bit earlier so you’re not waiting until May or June to hit form albeit it was nice it was just too late.

“I do a lot of the right stuff it’s to do a lot of it earlier in the season so I can get into the flow of it so you can just play, you’re not worried about stuff you might be worried about earlier in the season.”

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