A year is a long time in golf, just ask Team Ireland’s Gavin Moynihan. This time last year having missed out on the first stage of European Tour Q-School he was disillusioned with the game. “I put my clubs away for three weeks, I just didn’t want to see them.” Good luck prising them from his grasp now.
From that low point Moynihan got his breaks early in the season and never looked back. Entering this week’s Challenge Tour NBO Golf Classic Grand Final in Oman, Moynihan is just €5,787 outside the top 15 that will claim a main European Tour Card for 2018.
Having moved up from 26th to 18th in the Road to Oman standings last week, his earnings of €76,832 from 17 starts leaves him within touching distance of that golden ticket, needing just one more top performance in Oman to secure the privilege.
And with only the top 45 in the Rankings teeing it up at the Grand Final, Moynihan’s in buoyant mood ahead of the biggest week of his fledgling career.
“I know what I have to do – I need a top-7 at least, outright. There’s only 45 players and it looks like a few of the lads are struggling a bit so the reduced field will help. It’s blowing a gale at the moment here too which will suit me. I like the course and the set up here, its one of the best courses we have been at all year.
Chasing to get into the top 15 rather than looking over his shoulder should play into Moynihan’s hands at Oman and he is all too aware of the goal for the week.
“All I want to do is give myself a chance on Sunday, just a sniff of a card, and we’ll see what happens.”
It’s been a stunning revival for The Island Golf Club product throughout 2017, and entering the Grand Final he admits he could’ve scarcely envisaged such a scenario 12 months ago.
“I started the year with absolutely no category anywhere, I wasn’t even thinking of Oman, so to be sitting here in my hotel looking forward to playing the Challenge Tour Grand Final this week is a great feeling. No matter what happens this week I have a good category on the Challenge Tour for next season and I’ll also get a fair few starts on the European Tour too.”
He’s exceeded all expectation having entered the season merely hoping for any semblance of a schedule to take into next year. A second place finish at the Andalucía Matchplay in May changed all that, alleviating a burdening pressure that can be credited to a new laissez-faire attitude that Gavin has adopted to his golfing outlook.
“The question after the Irish Open [where he finished tied-14th at the K-Club] was, ‘where has this form been?’ – it’s been there, but I’m just enjoying it more now – I’m free-wheeling this year.
“Even after my five-over in China, like I was fuming for twenty minutes but then I got on the plane to Dubai and I was happy out. A few years ago that would’ve pissed me off for days but this year the attitude has been right and I’ve moved on to the next challenge.”
That challenge will significantly increase next year as Moynihan is guaranteed a few European Tour starts already from his stellar performances at the Irish Open and the Dunhill, but the trend has been on a steady upward curve for some time now and the Dubliner has certainly noticed a stark improvement.
“I’ve only missed two cuts the whole year after coming in off a year where I only made two cuts – and the two I missed were the two Irish events as well! Galgorm and Mount Wolseley.
“I’m making a lot more birdies– still making too many bogeys but when I was playing amateur golf I was never a player who made a lot of birdies. Now when I’m getting through four rounds I’m pushing twenty birdies – if I limit the bogeys I’ll be on the way!”
Indeed he doesn’t need to look too far for inspiration as Paul Dunne has paved the way for this generation of young Irish pretenders to make the step up in grade.
“It’s great to see what Dunner has achieved. I’ve known him since I was 16 and on our day our game’s stack up quite well against eachother, maybe a shot or two in the difference. But because of him you know that if you make it, there’s no reason why you can’t win or contend every week on the main tour, it’s just getting there that’s the hard part!”
Let’s hope that day arrives sooner than Moynihan imagined and that the Pearly Gates to the European Tour are about to open to yet another exciting Irish talent.