With the season in full swing for the elite of our game, if you’re not in a Race to Dubai or chasing the FedEx Cup dream then you’re not really living.
Image from Golffile
But try telling that to those trampling down the dusty Road to Oman. 27 tournaments spanning 21 countries, those competing on the European Challenge Tour’s roster all have one shared dream – a European Tour Card. The top-15 on the standings at the end of this long, hard road will realise that ambition, so we thought we’d take a look at how the Irish challenge has gone so far this year.
It’s been a difficult 2017 in truth for many of Ireland’s hopefuls. It hasn’t quite happened yet for West Waterford’s Gary Hurley despite threatening to come good on a number of occasions. It only takes one big week to change the course of your whole season and Hurley had positioned himself perfectly after opening rounds of 67/66 at the Open in Sicily in May. A stuttering 72/73 finish over the weekend resigned him to tied 23rd place, with the experienced Alvaro Quiroz taking the glory – an indication of the level of competition the lads are up against each week. Hurley currently sits in 123rd spot on the Road after five straight missed cuts and will need a dramatic form reversal to make an impression on the standings.
Cormac Sharvin’s been making cuts but a recent tied 21st finish at the Prague Golf Challenge was his best finish since tying for 20th in Kenya back in March. Sharvin had high hopes for 2017 and in 83rd position on the Road to Oman, he still has much to play for. Players finishing in the 16-45 bracket in the race may gain qualification to certain European Tour events, but can then improve their status at European Tour Qualifying School. However, having spoken to Cormac back in April, no doubt he’ll still be targeting a win or two and a huge push towards automatic promotion.
With 58 Challenge Tour appearances under his belt, Ruaidhri McGee has become quite the Tour veteran at the tender age of 26. The Rosapenna man got his season off to a flier at the Turkish Airlines Open back in April, finishing 4th. He currently sits in 53rd position on the rankings and with momentum having stalled over the last few weeks, he’ll be hoping for an upturn in fortunes to take advantage of a season that has cemented a solid foundation on which to build.
By far the biggest success story of the year to date however, is The Island’s very own, Gavin Moynihan. The two-time Irish Amateur Champion’s whole season changed when winning the Lookers Championship in April on the EuroPro Tour, and there’s been hardly any let-up since. He backed that performance up with a second place finish at the Andalucia Matchplay and a string of steady showings since finds him sitting pretty in 21st place in the Oman standings.
Yet for all that consistency, the highlight of Moynihans’s year has no doubt been his foray into Rolex company after a sizzling 64 capped a memorable week at this year’s Irish Open. Proving he could mix it with the best at Portrush, Gavin secured a top-15 finish, a sizeable cheque worth 80 grand plus and more importantly, a taste for the big-time and hopefully what’s to come.
Moynihan may be leading the charge, but with so much Irish talent on this road to Oman, it’s only a matter of time and hard work before more find their way.