Naas Golf Club’s Conor O Rourke will make his professional debut at the Irish Challenge in Mount Wolseley this week.
After just missing out on Walker Cup selection, O Rourke has secured a sponsor’s invite for the Challenge Tour event and is looking forward to taking full advantage of it:
“I am really excited about this week and making my professional debut so close to home in Mount Wolseley,” said O Rourke. “I am really looking forward to the week and then I have a week off to prepare for the first round of Q School”
O Rourke is booked in to play the first round of Q School at Frilford Heath on October 3-6th.
A Walker Cup appearance would have been the ideal way to finish off a decorated amateur career but with that disappointment behind him, the Naas man is now eager to hit the ground running in the professional ranks.
“Missing out on Walker Cup was disappointing as you work all season to try and make the team, it was how I planned to finish out my amateur career. I am looking at the positives from that as I came so close to making the team and know my game is in good shape”
That said, O Rourke is under no illusion as to what lies ahead and how difficult it will be to secure a card on either the European or Challenge Tour for 2018
“My goal is to try and secure either a main tour or a Challenge Tour card for 2018. I know it’s a different world than what I am used to but I feel I am prepared for the transition. I have seen the five guys from the last Walker Cup team all progress at different paces throughout the various Tours and have learned a good bit watching them find their way.”
A late arrival to the international scene, O Rourke has only been on the national panel the past two years. Still, he is very thankful to the GUI for the experience he has received during his amateur career.
“Being in the GUI set up has been brilliant for me. I have played in tournaments and travelled the world playing against the best amateurs in the world and I can’t thank the GUI enough for the support and opportunities they gave me. I am under no illusions that I am entering into a different world now and feel I have a good team around me.”
A vital part of that team is O Rourke’s coach and Naas Golf Club Professional Gavin Lunny, who Conor credits with his rise to the top.
“Gavin has been my coach now for twelve years now and has been a huge influence on my game.”
“Also the members and staff at Nass have been a great support too. They have a golf day for me here in Naas on the 29th of September and I am overwhelmed by the support from everybody wishing me well in the transition to the professional ranks.”
“I have been working hard on plans since the home internationals four weeks ago working out my plans with Gavin and preparing my game for Mount Wolseley and Q School. I was keen to put in a good performance at the Homes and then try and maintain that through to this week into my professional debut.”
Ironically, O Rourke’s only start in a professional tournament came at Mount Wolseley last year where the Naas man was disqualified for signing for an incorrect score, a sharp learning curve for the budding professional.
“I played the event as an amateur last year and learned a lot from that. Especially the importance of signing my card correctly” he laughed.
“I learned about where my game was at and I feel I’m a much better player now and ready for the challenge ahead. Playing last year it was clear how the top guys on the Challenge Tour play so aggressive and that’s how I want to be. I think if I can stay as aggressive as possible it will be key. I remember talking to Shane Lowry about this and said you are better off being the player who wins every so often and goes missing for a few weeks rather than having a lot of 30th place finishes.”
“Playing amateur golf as part of a team and a lot of match play events you don’t get that chance to be as aggressive sometimes and I have been practicing to get that mind-set the past month. I have been playing here at Naas off the red tees and going out trying to shoot ten or twelve under from there and getting myself comfortable shooting those type of scores.”
“I know the world I am going into means level par is not going to cut it. Ten under might win an amateur event but the professionals are going deep into the twenty under zones and that’s a huge gap that I am preparing for. It’s like training not to be afraid to go low, just staying aggressive. If you can’t do it in practice you won’t do it in the pressure of an event.”
He might be entering the paid ranks relatively late, but by the sounds of things, O’Rourke will be drawing on his experience to avoid the pitfalls that so many rookies fall into, time and time again. Let’s hope he finds the formula to succeed in one of the world’s most competitive work environments. He certainly has the credentials.