Rosslare pro Paul Murphy is one of 48 players hoping to ‘Monday qualify’ into next week’s Irish Challenge at Headfort, but with just two exemptions up for grabs, he knows it’s a race to the finish line and low scoring is going to be essential.
After making his first Challenge Tour start in last week’s Euram Open in Austria and missing the cut by two, Murphy took solace in the knowledge that inexperience was the decisive factor in missing out on a weekend tee time and that there is very little between himself and those he’s hoping to emulate on the DP World Tour’s primary feeder.
“What did I take from the week? Absolutely huge positivity,” he says. “As regards putting my own game up against the best on the Challenge Tour – yes, I did screw up on three holes – but I played with Ivan [Cantero Gutierrez] who had his European Tour card a couple of years back and I was looking at him and thinking there’s no difference between him and me apart from experience. We all have the ability, so at the end of the day, it’s just about believing in yourself and feeding off that positive energy.”
A direct invitation into the Irish Challenge would’ve been welcome, but with no such luck, he was willing to go the qualifier route and, having studied in the United States and played on the American mini-tour circuits after graduation, he’s no stranger to the cut-throat world of pre-qualifiers.
“I was in a fortunate position to do Monday qualifiers in the States,” he said, “and I know it’s still a 48-man field here, but the American ones had 90-man fields for four spots so they’re similar in a way, so I do have some experience in these kind of events. I was hoping for three or four here, but two spots is a very strict number.”
Despite both being in Leinster, Headfort and Rosslare are about as far away as you can get and it’s a course he will be seeing for the first time this week.
“I’ll go up on Sunday, play a practice round and do my usual preparation,” he said. “Plan out the course the way I want to play it, especially with what clubs I want to hit off tee boxes and just make sure my yardages are what they are. Coming back to Ireland after playing so much golf abroad, the distances you hit it varies.
“In regards to hopes and expectations, my game is good. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be, but it’s going to be very hard to get one of those two spots. But at the end of the day, if I don’t get through, I’ve got provisional flights and accommodation booked for the Alps Tour event that’s running opposite the Irish Challenge.”
An option to fall back on, but very much a second choice, especially after he discovered what additional incentives are on offer for the lowest-scoring Irishman in the event proper.
“I wanted to play in this anyway,” Murphy said, “but then I read one of the articles on Irish Golfer and saw that the Irish player who finishes highest in the tournament gets a spot in the Irish Open, so I was like, that’s certainly one to go for because that’s an incredible opportunity for whoever gets that.”
Admission to the qualifier is free on a walk-in basis, and spectators can register for FREE TICKETS for the Irish Challenge by clicking here.