Enniscorthy’s Paul Conroy has enjoyed a sensational season Stateside, picking up his maiden collegiate victory alongside six top-10 finishes and he hopes to cap off his junior year in style at this week’s NCAA D1 Championship at Grayhawk Golf Club.
Conroy arrives following four successive top-7 finishes as he helped Chattanooga qualify for the National finals for the fifth time in their history after a third place finish in their first NCAA Men’s Golf Regional appearance in nine years at Auburn University Golf Club.
“I’m very excited to play in the Nationals and it’s especially great to be going there with the team,” said the Chattanooga number one who will also be joined in the field by Sam Murphy of Kansas State. “The team as a whole has been playing well and getting a lot better. One to five we are a solid side and we have all been playing well over the last few months.
“We showed a big improvement from last semester into this one too so we are definitely getting better. Our coach has been to Grayhawk before he is a former National champion so he knows his way around it and we are all excited to get there.”
Conroy has been in scintillating form for the Mocs since September, fuelled by results of 5th and 3rd at the Mullingar Scratch Cup and AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship in August and he feels some trojan work on his short game has elevated his game to another level.
“Since coming from home last August I started playing well again. Mullingar Scratch Cup last year was when I felt like I was playing solid again and then I kept it going for the most part, had some bad events as well. But since last summer I have to say I have been fairly solid.
“My last four events are all top-10s. Recently I have a lot of confidence and my short game and putting has improved a lot in the last year. I have worked very hard on my short game compared to before and I have seen the results, shaving scores off my average which is down to short game.
“Our head coach and assistant coach have been very good in getting my short gamer to a different level and checking up on everything and making sure my swing is in the right place and I’m ready to go on tournament weeks.”
Conroy didn’t have to wait long to break through upon his return to the US, winning the Wolfpack Intercollegiate in his third start of the fall season.
The Wexford man blitzed the field in the final round with a 62 that included a hole in one and he has carried that confidence throughout the season and it looks like he is peaking at the right time.
“It was great to get a win over here, I was close a couple of times last year. I had played the week before I won the Wolfpack and I putted really poorly, should have won that with even my B game on the greens. I hit the ball really well and missed everything I looked at that week.
“Went home and worked really hard on my putting before the Wolfpack and I just got it going in the final round. First two rounds were nothing special and the final round I holed some putts, made a hole in one and it was nice to finally get over the line.
“I gained a lot of confidence from that, I was in contention the week after too and played really well coming down the stretch. That win has helped me a lot, when I’m in contention now I don’t back off because I got over the line before.”
Conroy’s grand designs for the summer will see him remain in the States for the most part with ventures to the St Andrews Links Trophy and Amateur Championship his only trans Atlantic trips planned. While he is a little disappointed not to fit in an Irish championship into his hectic schedule, home comforts will be felt at the Southern Amateur Championship at Chattanooga’s home golf course.
“I was close a couple of times in Ireland before in the South and the Close last August but this summer I’m just going to play St Andrews Links and British Amateur and then hopefully I will get into the European Amateur Championship.
“I’ll head back to the States in July, take a couple of weeks off then. The Southern Amateur is at our home course in Chattanooga so got into that and looking forward to playing that, it’s a big event at our home course so can’t really miss that one. I’ll play a few tournaments then and US Amateur qualifiers.
“I might squeeze in an Irish championship in the summer if I can, this summer I will be a little busy unfortunately.
“I plan on playing a lot this summer, take a week off at the start of July to refresh and hang up the clubs after playing all year round. Hopefully if I can play well I can throw the name in the hat for an Irish selection.”
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