The Irish championship season is gathering pace with two of the country’s national championships taking place one week after another as the best players in Ireland battle for the Flogas Irish Men’s Amateur Open Championship (May 11-14) and the Flogas Irish Women and Girls Amateur Open Championship (May 19-21).
The Men’s edition returns to The Island Golf Club for the second successive year with Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell bidding to retain the title, and win it for a third time.Campbell got the better of US Mid-Amateur champion Matthew McClean last year in a playoff after a marathon week that was hampered by a lengthy fog delay. His win was rightly heralded as a fantastic achievement for part-time amateur golfers and although he skipped the West of Ireland Championship at Easter, Campbell has his sights set on putting up a stern defence of his Irish Amateur crown.
“Last year was an unexpected win, so going back this year I can draw on past experiences,” said the 2016 and 2022 champion. “The course itself is a really good test of golf and hopefully we can do something similar to what we did last year so really looking forward to it.
“All eyes will be on me as defending champion and there will be some expectation to put up a decent defence of it and look, at the end of the day, I need to manage those expectations myself. I’m still in the same scenario as last year, low expectations and play as well as I can.“I know if I play well and put it all together, I won’t be too far away on Sunday.
“There’s still plenty of time to get the practice in and play rounds of golf whenever you can. It’s all down to how much time and effort I want to put into it, especially for preparing for the Irish Am.
“It’s a long week and it feels like a proper tournament because you have the practice round and hopefully four rounds of golf on a tough golf course and the weather can throw up anything.”
Last year Campbell proved there was life after 30 in the amateur game, as did Garda Quentin Carew in the Irish Close. But it was the Irish international who kicked off a year for the part-timers when he holed two clutch par putts on the 17th and 18th before capturing his second Flogas Irish Amateur Open title at the first extra hole.He finished level with McClean on one-over-par after 72 holes, carding one birdie and one par in his final round which included a run of thirteen successive pars and a series of gutsy putts.
“When I look back at footage, I look back on 17 being a pivotal hole, that clutch 10-12 footer on 17 to have a chance going down 18,” explained the former East of Ireland champion. “I holed a really good putt from 30 feet for par on the first, those are moments which settle you down and get you into the groove. I played really steady and smart golf. Getting to 17 and holing that putt was key to getting me across the line in the tournament.
“If you miss that putt and move to 18 which is a very difficult hole to just par, as it transpired, I ended up having to hole a 15-footer to force a playoff!
“I gave myself plenty of chances but couldn’t get anything going on the greens but it was more satisfying to get putts on 17 and 18 when I really needed them.
“You have to be very patient. Links golf is tricky because you can get any type of conditions out there. The Island specifically you have to position the ball off the tee because the greens nearly sit upside down in some places. Missing the green on the right side is key at times. It’s a very demanding golf course.
“1 and 18 are very demanding tee shots, you can’t go chasing, you need patience or you’ll be brought down to reality quickly.
“18th is as tough a finishing hole as anywhere in Ireland or the UK, it’s a very demanding hole. The tee shot and second shots are demanding, there’s not a big target to hit into so it’s just a really good and tough hole.
When Campbell won the first of his two Irish Amateur titles in 2016 in Royal Dublin, he was named on the provisional 2017 Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup panel. Unfortunately, he didn’t make the final squad.This time he was omitted from the panel for September’s date in St Andrews but he believes another strong year can perhaps tip the scale in his favour and force his way into consideration for a Home of Golf call-up.
“It’s a Walker Cup year and obviously the panel has already been decided but who knows, if you put in a few decent performances along the way, you never know and it can throw you into the mix for the Walker Cup in St Andrews which would be the icing on the cake,” he said.
“I was on the initial panel in 2017 and I didn’t play great that year and didn’t get picked but I remember there were a few lads who were outside of the panel and played their way in. Just because you’re not on the panel doesn’t mean they aren’t keeping an eye on you. “There’s still a chance of making the team.”
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