Kilkenny’s Mark Power is hoping a big week at this week’s Irish Challenge can aid his Walker Cup cause ahead of September’s match against the Americans at St Andrews.
Power is one of two amateurs earning Golf Ireland invites into this week’s field as he joins international teammate Liam Nolan in Kells with the big-hitting pair looking to make an impression in pro company.
Power is part of the provisional GB&I squad and having impressed alongside John Murphy at Seminole in 2021, he is understandably eager to make a second Walker Cup appearance knowing a big showing in the Royal County might just punch his ticket to the Royal and Ancient Club.
“That’s obviously the end goal but you can only control the controllables and see where I’m at in a few weeks,” Power said after getting his first look at the course in years last week.
“I feel like the golf course suits me – you have to be strong off the tee. You need to be good with your distance control into greens, so I feel like I’m capable of a big week.
“I feel like my game’s very close. At the European Am I got into second place in the third round and a couple of sloppy mistakes held me back.
“If I can clean everything up, hopefully I can have a good week at Headfort and then I’ve the U.S. Amateur in a couple of weeks too so if I can finish off the summer strong it should help my cause as I finish off my amateur career.”
Indeed, the Wake Forest star has since graduated from his U.S. collegiate career, opting to forego a chance at an extra year to plough on with his golf as he looks to turn pro after a hopeful second Walker Cup cap.
“I could’ve done an extra year because of the Covid year but I’m finished now. I’ll play out through September and turn pro after that,” Power says, relishing another chance to rub shoulders with the pros this week having impressed previously when making the cut at the Irish Open in 2020, one of three National open appearances.
“I’ll hopefully be playing against the likes of these lads in the next year so just having the chance to test myself against them and learn what I can will only be a good thing,” Power says, full of beans despite a relentless summer schedule that included a bronze medal result with Ireland at the European Team Championships a fortnight ago.
“I’ve been flat out,” he says. “I’d been working on a couple of things but there hasn’t really been a break to get much practice in between but I feel like I’m playing pretty nice, close to clicking completely, but just a couple of things here and there to iron out.
“The Team Championships were great, we were unlucky in the semi-final against Denmark. We were up and looking good and jeez, their guys just blitzed us. The guy I played against made seven birdies in his last 10 and I think there was a bit of that going on in every match.
“But look, to trounce England like that (6-1!) was nice and it was great to get a medal!”
Power will be hoping to upgrade his medal for a trophy this week with not just the Irish Challenge title on offer but also the Christy O’Connor Jnr perpetual trophy for the low Irishman, and with it, a place in the Horizon Irish Open at the K Club.
Power has no doubt that given the test posed by Headfort, whoever punches that ticket will have wholly earned the right.
“The course is in great nick but it’s going to be tough,” he says.
“The rough is awful lush. I was chatting to a few greenkeepers on the way around and I think they’re just letting it go for now so they can control it then during tournament week.
“There’s obviously been a lot of rain but it’s very juicy now so fairways will be at a premium. I’ve been driving it well so hopefully that can continue into the week and we’ll see where it leaves us.”
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