Ireland thrive and respond to the backing of home crowd

Ireland’s Conor Purcell is no blushing violet. The Portmarnock GC and University of North Carolina golfer loves playing in front of big galleries.

Conor Purcell – Image by Pat Cashman

Speaking after Ireland’s solid second round display in the World Amateur Team Championships at Carton House, Purcell appreciated the sizeable support for the Boys in Green.
“Yes, it was good. Playing in front of a crowd is good and the more, the merrier at this stage,” he said. 

Hopefully for round three when the home team return to action on the Montgomerie Course their stalwart efforts so far in search of a first Eisenhower Trophy win will bring more club golfers to follow them.
Purcell and his team mates Robin Dawson of Tramore and Kinsale’s John Murphy, have acquitted themselves well to lie one shot off the pace set by New Zealand (-20), in joint second, and today is effectively “moving day” in a fascinating championship.

Therein lies the rub. There is no television but at least national newspapers and RTE radio are present to offer a decent level of coverage.
That said, it’s far short of the status accorded to a professional event, which reflects the standing of amateur golf in this country.
Ironically, the game has arguably never been better organized in terms of the GUI and ILGU’s development schemes and progression of their golfers emerging through the ranks to Tour standard.

As an spectacle, amateur golf, however, does not resonate much with the “average” GUI or ILGU member, which is a pity.
These World Championships have been organized with great efficiency, and all it needs now is more of the atmosphere that was building around the men’s team yesterday.
That may come, but like the Irish Women’s Hockey team, it’s  progress through to the business end of a championship that stirs the blood and gets the patriotism flowing.
Watching some quality golf , albeit that the lads felt they left a few shots behind them, it was interesting to note the presence of some familiar faces.

Standing at the first tee were former Irish champion Declan Branigan and his close pal, Barry Reddan, both of them multi-winners of GUI titles who both played for Ireland.
They are great supporters of the current crop of young stars and it would be fascinating to have the use of a time machine to take the likes of Messrs Purcell, Dawson, and Murphy back to the era when Branigan and Reddan were in their prime.
They would find themselves in alien territory.  
Those were the days when big crowds were the norm at the top GUI ‘Majors’, and when stamina and body fat meant something different compared with those chiseled and honed young tyros of the modern game.
Branno and Barry’s generation competed fiercely, but then they and their peers knew how to enjoy themselves.
Unlike these days, a golf club bar would be full to the brim well into the early hours of the morning at the likes of  Lahinch or Westport or County Louth.

The bit of extra poundage would come in handy for absorbing the après golf “refueling” and a hearty Irish breakfast would be needed to balance the energy somewhat due to lack of sleep before an early morning tee time.
It’s all so different now. The professional approach is well established. After yesterday’s golf, the Irish players were primed for some food, relaxation, stretching, and perhaps a short stint in the Jacuzzi before an early bed.
Good for them. This is a big opportunity to perform in front of their own, and I hope today goes well and that Ireland are primed to challenge in tomorrow’s fourth and final round.
Team captain John Carroll and National Coach Neil Manchip are happy that the players can deal with any pressure and expectation that comes with being the home team.
Robin Dawson summed up the Irish approach, saying: “Personally, I just go out and play and see how we go and play as well as I can. 
“We are all good enough here, so we know we will be in contention.
“So we’re just going out and letting it happen.” 
Admission is free and Carton House can cope with big spectator numbers. Let’s hope they turn up. 
 



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