Defending champion, Robert Brazill is looking forward to returning to The West for an unfamiliar strokeplay renewal this year as things get underway today at County Sligo.
Naas amateur, Robert Brazill revisits the site of his greatest triumph in golf to date as the West of Ireland Amateur Championship returns this week in an unfamiliar 72-strokeplay format to Rosses Point in Sligo.
Last year, the then 21-year-old big-hitting Kildare player held off the impressive, Alex Gleeson, to claim one of Ireland’s oldest titles. It was a win that elevated Brazill into a bracket he’d not previously known, and he now admits that the scale of the win opened doors that have only helped further his progression in the game ever since.
“It completely changed the year,” reflected Brazill. “Winning The West, it’s a massive boost all round. It puts your name in the hat for panels and teams and stuff like that and obviously that in turn gets you the right coaching throughout the year so it was a huge help.
”His 1UP win over a dogged Gleeson was a first major title for the Naas player and proved a crucial learning curve in terms of getting over the line.
“It was nice to learn that I have the game to win and to learn how to win as well. I’d never won anything big like that so it was nice to see how it was done and obviously it gives you a great boost to know you can go on and do it again.
“To be honest, it isn’t really that big a thing to a win a tournament. When you actually win one you realise it’s just a combination of everything coming together rather than it all being absolutely perfect for the week.
”Around his strenuous golfing commitments, Brazill juggles a day-job at McGuirks Golf and given that the modern amateur is practically professional in everything but name, it comes as no surprise that the double act can prove testing at times.
“It is tough,” he admits, “especially if you want to do the golf properly. You really need to focus on the golf first and have the work there for your free days. But it’s also good as well that it changes up your mindset. It’s not just golf, golf, golf. You realise that you’ve got to earn your keep here too. You’re supporting yourself and it’s a good way to be.”
This year, The West’s departure from its traditional match play format certainly throws a new dimension at the players. Given the pristine Sligo layout sits at the mercy of the Atlantic Ocean, it’s no great shock that Brazill has one eye on the weather when weighing up the merits of a strokeplay renewal this month, but the pros far outweigh the cons for what he expects to be a thrilling four days of golf.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s like out there playing strokeplay. If the weather’s bad it could be an interesting four days! I think it’s going to be really good playing in a strokeplay though. It will be different. I know last year in match play I smacked one or two out of bounds and managed to get a half. In strokeplay you’re really going to have to plot your way around and ensure you’re keeping the ball in play.
“But we don’t have as many strokeplay tournaments as some other countries do so there should be an added interest for the lads. It’s nice to get another strokeplay tournament – same set-up as the Irish Amateur in a few weeks’ time too so it should definitely attract a few more players. It’s basically just the Irish Amateur before the Irish Amateur so it will be a great practice for that as well as a great tournament in its own right.”