Young Cavan golfer Shane McDermott is having quite the week at Rosses Point.
The 25-year-old came through a brutal, three-day examination from Friday through Sunday, where strong winds battered County Sligo Golf Club on the opening two days before driving rain was added to the mix for Friday’s final stroke play round.
Early predictions among the pundits and armchair compatriots in the warm comforts of County Sligo’s clubhouse – and it’s seldom looked so inviting – were that +8 would safely make the top 16 and +9 for a playoff, but those out on course, and those just in, knew better.
“I think I’m going to be one short, one out of the playoff,” said Dutchman Severiano Prins who’d just signed for a round of 74 – his best of the week – that included a hole-in-one at the fourth, and lay +11. And he was right.
From 13 onwards, especially with the south-easterly wind, County Sligo is a brute. “Do your scoring on the first 12 and then hang on for dear life” was the mantra of the week, and especially so when the rain is pelting you full in the face. Lying on +9 as he exited the 12th green, McDermott’s chances of making the top-16 were hanging by a thread.
Grange Golf Club’s Jake Whelan, whose -1 was the joint best round of the day scoring wise, but comfortably the best round given the weather conditions he’d faced, played the stretch in +2. McDermott played it in +1, his only bogey coming at the monstrous 17th that, had it been a par-5 instead of a par-4, would still have averaged well over par.
This earned him a spot in a four-for-two playoff, and after Joe Lyons holed a birdie putt from just off the green at the first playoff hole, a two-putt par as the remaining two bogeyed was enough to secure passage to the matchplay section.
The last man in, he was seeded 15th owing to a better third round, and he’d face the aforementioned Whelan in the round of 16, taking down the number-two seed 3&2, before going through Letterkenny’s Cian Harkin 6&5, playing extremely aggressive golf.
“I just tried to put him under as much pressure as I could,” McDermott explained, “I’m driving the ball really well this week so I just nailed driver on those holes and got as close to the green as I could.
“I’m embracing the pressure. This is the furthest I’ve ever gotten in this competition so just got to keep pushing. So yeah, the sky’s the limit.”
The only man in the last-16 to play without a caddie throughout the tournament, McDermott has had no shortage of support at Rosses Point but he’s been happy to carve his own path when it comes to navigating his way around the golf course.
“I’m happy on my own this week,” he says. “I’ve been going well just going through the routine by myself so I just think if someone comes in at this stage… I don’t really want to bring anyone on board. I’m happy with myself at the minute so all’s good.”
McDermott grew up just outside Cavan Town – he’s not a townie though, he likes to clarify – and began playing at Cavan Golf Club before also taking up membership at the Slieve Russell.
There, under the tutelage of Gordon Smyth, McDermott’s game has gone from strength to strength.
“I’ve been with Gordon for the past three or four years, which is great,” McDermott explained. “We’ve done a lot of work together, the two of us, a lot of long hours put in from both him and me, so it’s good to see it paying off. I’m putting really well – actually everything is pretty good this week, and I’m doing a lot of work with Chris Selfridge as well, mentally, so I’m in a very good place with my game.”
Recently, world-renowned short-game coach and Omagh native Gareth Raflewski, in conjunction with Smyth, has developed a Performance Academy at the Ballyconnell Club. Raflewski, who is coach to numerous LPGA and PGA Tour players with a client list that includes multiple major winners and world number ones, has devised a state-of-the-art setup designed to fine-tune the abilities of players of all levels, and crucially, in all weather conditions.
“I’m very fortunate with the facilities that we have down there,” McDermott says. “Both the indoor putting setup and he’s got the GC Quad and all that so it’s great for wedges and irons, even the swing path with the driver so you know exactly what you’re doing so you can step up on holes and it gives you the confidence to know exactly what you’re doing.”
The way things are going this week, the sky’s the limit indeed.
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