Murphy & O’Rourke set for season debuts as six Irish line up at the NMB Championship

Mark McGowan

Conor O'Rourke (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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Conor O’Rourke, playing as a sponsor’s invitation, joins John Murphy in making season debuts at this week’s Nelson Mandela Bay Championship on the Challenge Tour, alongside Gary Hurley, Jonathan Caldwell, Dermot McElroy and Ronan Mullarney.

Both O’Rourke and Murphy have found themselves below the cut off point for each of the three previous events in the 2024 season, and it’s a season that hasn’t been particularly kind to the Irish, with Conor Purcell’s T17 finish last week the highlight on what’s been an otherwise underwhelming start.

In fact, the Portmarnock man, who’s taking the opportunity to step up a level and compete on the DP World Tour’s Magical Kenya Open this week, Hurley and Mark Power are the only three men to make a Challenge Tour cut in 2024, with Purcell going two-for-two and Hurley and Power making one each, making it four made cuts from 14 attempts for all Irish Challenge Tour contestants thus far.

But each new week brings fresh hope, and the final event of the four co-sanctioned Challenge and Sunshine Tour events sees the players head for Port Elizabeth and Humewood Golf Club, a course described as being the ‘only true links in Africa,’ A four-time host venue for the South African Open, Humewood is situated amidst the sand dunes of Algoa Bay and the wind typically determines the scoring.

Last year’s championship was as close as we came to having an Irish winner on the circuit with Ruaidhri McGee finishing third, two strokes back, after a blistering final round eight-under than included six birdies on the back nine as he came home in 31.

A par-72 that measures under 7,000 yards, expect scoring to be low if the wind doesn’t kick up, but after a relatively calm opening round, 30 kph winds are expected on each of the remaining three days. The back nine, which features three par-5s and plays to a par of 37 is the scoring section of the course, and O’Rourke, Hurley and Caldwell all begin their opening rounds on the 10th, with O’Rourke getting underway at 06:30 Irish time, whilst Hurley and Caldwell are each off in the afternoon wave at 10:10 and 10:50 respectively.

Mullarney is the first of the three Irish who’ll start on hole number one as he goes off at 06:30, with Murphy teeing off at 10:40 and McElroy close behind at 11:00.


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