Aaron Marshall hopes to round-off his superbly consistent collegiate campaign with a big showing when the R&A Student Series Final rolls into St Andrews next week from April 3-5.
The only thing missing from Marshall’s CV this season is a win but he’ll arrive at the Home of Golf off the back of two podium finishes that catapulted him into second place on the Order of Merit, just 13 points back of Scot George Cannon’s lead.
“I’m feeling good and I’m looking forward to it,” says Marshall, whose form-line reads T11, T8, 3, T3.
“It’s always nice having the last event of the year at a place like St Andrews. I’ve been playing nicely, I’ve been very consistent so my game’s been trending in the right direction and hopefully that continues into next week.”
Teammate David Kitt captured last season’s Order of Merit title and the riches that came with it, carving a path to the finish line that the likes of Marshall would dearly love to follow.
With one-and-a-half times the points on offer for the final event, as well as spots in the Arnold Palmer Cup, The Amateur, and a Challenge Tour invite going to the winner, Marshall hopes a return to familiar pastures could spark a final push to the all-important title.
“This will be my fourth time going to St Andrews and I just love it,” he says.
“I love the whole atmosphere around the town. I’ll never get sick of going, it’s a special place and I love playing golf there.
“I was lucky enough to play the Old Course once. I played it with the grandstands up after The Open last year so I’m looking forward to getting back. It’s nice the way the Tour Series finishes with the final round on the Old so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Where Marshall’s season would’ve ordinarily teed-off at the Laytown & Bettystown Scratch Cup, the Lisburn man has relished additional game-time courtesy of the ever-improving Student Series.
“It’s been nice. It feels like we haven’t really stopped,” says Marshall.
“The Series breaks the year up really well. You’re working with the coaches, you’re doing your S&C, then going to class but the tournaments break up the semesters and give you something to look forward to and aim at.
“You’re traveling somewhere and playing competitive golf at the same time so you can’t really ask for much more.”
It’s not just the reps that have seen Marshall reap rewards on the fairway so early in the season, however. Rather, he credits a shift in outlook for his improved performances.
“I’ve worked hard but more so I’ve been working on the right things to get better,” he says.
“I got fixated before on my swing but I’m trying to get better at components that you can’t really see now and it’s paying off a wee bit thankfully.”
A stand-out Boys player in Ireland, Marshall had his choice of universities around the world before ultimately deciding on Maynooth. Now he’d dearly love to repay the programme for all it’s given him as he goes chasing a coveted Order of Merit crown.
“I considered going to America but it never really appealed to me enough to go,” he admits.
“I’ve always been a home bird and Maynooth gave me that option. It’s been perfect. It allowed me to go to University, get a good degree and develop myself as a golfer, all while being close to home.
“The golf programme is brilliant. Barry [Fennelly] runs it very well. We’re surrounded by great coaches. The Academy is class for a great variety of things, working on all aspects of our game, and we have Portmarnock there for a bit of links golf – and it’s never a bad thing!
“Next week we go to St Andrews and you can’t really top that. It’s a great place to be.”
The first two rounds of next week’s finale will be played over the St Andrews Jubilee Course before the final round is contested on the Old Course.
As ever, Maynooth boasts a strong hand with more students in the race for the men’s Order of Merit title than any other Institution, with six students lying inside the Top-10 (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 10th, 12th). In the women’s event, Kate Dwyer lies in 6th place.
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