McBride hungry to progress after Dubai moonlight with Cam Young

Ronan MacNamara

Paul McBride and Cameron Young in Dubai (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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It wasn’t quite a Westlife reunion, but back for one week and (maybe) one week only, former Wake Forest University teammates Paul McBride and Cameron Young had a blast in Dubai.

Dublin native Paul McBride is no stranger to ferrying his own clubs around, but this time he was on ‘bagman’ duty for Cameron Young at the Dubai Desert Classic last month where they flirted with victory but had to settle for watching Rory McIlroy scoop his fourth title.

Team and housemates at Wake Forest in the United States, sharing the fairways as tour pros was a likely prospect, but last month was the first time they had seen each other for two years.

Since leaving college, McBride – a 2017 Walker Cup player – and Young have taken different career paths. Young may be winless on the PGA and DP World Tours, but he has top-seven finishes in three of the four majors and is a top-20 player in the world.

McBride, meanwhile, was in Dubai preparing for another season on the Alps Tour which begins later this month having narrowly missed out on gaining a Challenge Tour card during the 2023 campaign.

Currently, he lives and plays in a different world to his friend, but he still has aspirations and the belief that he can reach the top level, and a fast start will go a long way to finally getting off the Alps Tour.

“I’ll start out on the Alps Tour in Egypt and try get off to a good start because I haven’t done that in other seasons over my five years as a pro, so my main focus is to stop the flat starts and be ready to roll when it comes around,” said the Island GC man.

“There’s three events in Egypt, then God knows, probably another twelve after that, so these three events make up a significant part of the schedule, it’s very important to get off to a fast start.”
In the Alps Tour Grand Final last year, McBride bogeyed his last hole to not only miss out on a playoff in the event, but he missed out on sixth spot on the Order of Merit which would have secured him a Challenge Tour card for this year had he won the playoff.

It was a tough pill to swallow, but he is ready to go again.

“I almost got through last year. I think if I won the final event, I would’ve come sixth on the Order of Merit, and in the end sixth actually got a Challenge Tour card. I bogeyed my last hole to miss out on a playoff, you don’t know what could have happened if I got in the playoff. I was close last year, closer than the Order of Merit suggests.

“I have confidence that I can do it this year.”

A desire to play on the DP World Tour in the future might burn even brighter after his caddying experience for Young in Dubai. As well as getting a taste for what it’s like to be at an elite DP World Tour event, McBride rubbed shoulders with Tommy Fleetwood, Ryan Fox, Andy Sullivan and McIlroy across the four rounds.

McBride and Young with the Dubai skyline in the background (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Young, the 2022 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, had given regular caddie, Paul Tesori the week off while in Dubai and with McBride already over there for some warm weather winter training, they decided to spend the week together inside the ropes and catch up.

“We were just chatting before Christmas and he said he was caddie-less and I said I would be in Dubai if you need me and he said that would be great so that’s how the conversation went,” explained McBride. “Most people know we went to college together and keep in contact so just casually texted “let’s do it” and we did it!

“A couple of years ago I had dinner with him in Florida, but with the way the world is today, you keep in contact. I see him play on TV so much it feels like I’m seeing him in that way.

“I loved it. It was great to be involved in the event and when you’re in it you don’t really appreciate what’s going on as much.

“We both did yardages. I’m used to doing them from playing and I would help him on club selection maybe, but more just as a confirmation. I helped him read the putts a bit. I’d say I had a role as more than just a bag carrier but not as much as a regular caddie.”

Although Young once again came up short over the weekend as the search for that elusive maiden tour victory continues, the progression in his game is something that caught McBride a little off guard.

“He’s such a good player, but I was surprised how much his game has improved since I last played with him in college,” he recalled. “He really has turned himself into a world class player.
“It shows the quality of player and Cam has played well in a lot of big events – he’s a big event player – he relishes that I think and he will win. I have no doubts about that. I told him he’s one of the best players in the world, I couldn’t believe how much he has improved, it was impressive to see.

“Sunday, we felt fine, it didn’t really change, Cam is a really laid-back person and a good fella. He’s very easy to be around, we don’t have to be talking to each other every minute of the round, we are comfortable just wandering up the fairways and maybe chat about the odd thing here and there.

“It was great to be involved in a huge event on a Sunday and to play with the winner. Pity it wasn’t Cam, but it was great.”

Paul McBride in action in Finland (Photo by Joosep Martinson/Getty Images)

The final round at Emirates Golf Club was a thriller as McIlroy held off Young and Adrian Meronk to claim a record fourth Dubai Desert Classic crown.

That Sunday was probably the first time McBride had experienced anything close to the crowds that were lining the fairways at the 2017 Walker Cup at Seminole, and to be doing so with his close friend and arguably the best player in the world in McIlroy, was a taste of what still could be for him.

It was a cool story for Irish golf fans to see three of the four people in the final group with green tinted glasses.

“You think about it, think that you’re playing with Rory on the Sunday, but once it comes to the first tee – he’s obviously an amazing player and the shots you do get to see are incredible – but when you get out there onto the course you just try to focus on yourself and Cam and almost forget about Rory,” McBride said.

“There were huge crowds lining the fairways and a really good atmosphere. Cam played well all four days and just never got going on the Sunday.

“We all chatted a bit, especially waiting on the front nine, chatted about all sorts of things and then on the back nine it quickened up and we got into a routine.”

As a player looking to progress through the levels and carve out a successful career as a professional golfer, McBride’s experience in Dubai not only whet the appetite for getting his own season underway, but served as a timely reminder of the level he needs to aspire to.

“The thing I took from the week is how good these guys are,” he explained. “They are all great players and we got to play with some of the real top players. They are so good – out of this world good – and some of the shots I saw over the four days….

“You see it on TV but don’t appreciate it until you stand on the fairways and realise how difficult the course is playing, how firm the greens are, and all the different things going on. Then, how good they are is really impressive. Until you see it live you don’t really appreciate it.”

The Alps Tour has been good to the Irish in recent years with Gary Hurley and Ronan Mullarney both progressing through the Order of Merit and onto the DP World and Challenge Tours.

McBride has been on the brink of promotion and with his hunger stoked after rubbing shoulders with the game’s elite, the fast start he craves could well be on the horizon. Perhaps even proving the catalyst that kickstarts his journey to joining the likes of McIlroy and Young on a more permanent basis, but this time, with somebody carrying McBride’s bag.

The above feature appeared in the 2024-2 edition or Irish Golfer. To view the full edition click below

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