IN the World Team Amateur Championship for the prestigious Eisenhower Trophy held at Carton House last week, a highly rated Irish, three-man side was expected to contend.
Robin Dawson (Tramore), John Murphy (Kinsale) and Conor Purcell (Portmarnock) were right in the mix in joint-third spot after rounds 1 and 2 but, found the all-important, moving-day, Round 3 too hot to handle.
“The pressure of playing at home with high expectations on one's shoulders is a different scenario to playing in Timbuktu where nobody knows who you are, or cares less”
(That's a revealing quote given to me by Padraig Harrington in a not entirely different context) I expected Ireland to rally in the fourth round (and they did to some extent to finish 9-shots behind in joint tenth position) but it was academic.
Achieving a podium finish, which might have been expected and which was achieved two years ago in Mexico, was well beyond their reach this time even when playing at their home course where the GUI has its offices and academy.
Someday, the GUI will (reluctantly, it seems to me) come around to appreciating and understanding what I have been saying about the structures and formats of the top amateur competitions in Ireland, especially the value of 54-holes Stroke Play.
If you can't stay in step with worldwide competition, considering all of the money invested and if the GUI's training and coaching policies are unable to produce a team capable of finishing in the top half-a-dozen at home, something isn't quite right and a root and branch review is required.
The humble club golfer who diligently pays his annual poll tax year-on-year is receiving a poor return for all of the thousands of euro given to the GUI to invest in the promotion of the game.
Far better to put that money into junior coaching at grass roots level. If nothing else it would help to 'grow the game' and, in due course, increase the GUI's own poll tax base.
Spreading the net wider also has a better chance of uncovering talent than the current shrinking one - numbers-wise. Putting so much money into a select, elite few is misguided.
For Paul McGinley to say on the RTE News that Ireland finishing 10th was a 'good performance by a small country like ours' is no more than 'PR spin.'
I would have expected more balance than this platitude from Paul!
Did he not know that Denmark won the event and, surely, they aren't any bigger (or better) a golf nation than us, no matter how you analyse or spin it?
If the ‘Eisenhower/WTAC’ was played in the Philippines, Chile, NZ or Canada, I would accept 10th but not on the GUI's home course at Carton House.
The Kildare venue has superb facilities but I think it is one of the worst, atmosphere-less, spectator-unfriendly places for watching golf I have ever visited.
It's okay to play golf there if you have a buggy to transport you around, but being a walking spectator is as severe a test of stamina as you will ever endure and you do not see that much of the golf either.
It's all very well to say the Irish team did not receive as much support from followers as might have been expected and that our representatives were well behaved and courteous, or that the tournament was exceptionally well-organised and well-run. Club golfers are not stupid.
They have been going to the Irish Finals of the GUI Cups and Shields tournaments at Carton House for 'years' and they know that the County Kildare venue is far from ideal for golf watching. It's much too big and rambling!
Of course, it was designed that way with a view to building expensive houses between the holes on what is, undoubtedly, a magnificent and historic demesne.
The winning individual was a young, 20-year old Spaniard, Alejandro Del Rey, on 23-under par. My guess is that he would win on the European Tour almost any week with a score like that!
Japan's, Takumi Kanaya, was in second place on 22-under. Remember those names because you will probably hear them again!
Ireland's best return came from Tramore's Dawson with a respectable 14-under but 9-shots is a long way behind the winner and not what the would-be professional in a couple of week's was hoping for.
If you think I'm being harsh, the point is in a world championship of any kind you are competing against the very best and you cannot afford any poor days.
The Ireland Team had two years to get ready for this and to put its best foot forward. I wasn't really expecting a win but, considering the investment and build up, a top-5 placing should have been feasible.
I cannot say if something went 'wrong' with the preparation but I would blame the underlying structure and format of competitive golf in Ireland, which to be fair, is not entirely the fault of the GUI - they do not run all of the competitions.
I do not enjoy being so critical so often. Nothing changes and so, nothing ever improves - it's extremely frustrating!
I am as proud of being Irish as the next man. I just want to see us doing well and showing 'improvement' in world terms.
A bigger investment in grass roots golf is the best way to do it.
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