There’s no shortage of high hopes and ambition at Mount Wolseley this morning as the Sport Ireland supported Irish Challenge gets underway.
With 19 aspiring professionals and four of Ireland’s leading amateurs in the field, the home contingent are out in force, hoping for a performance that could make their season and pave the way for a full-time career in the sport.
The Irish Challenge is part of the European Challenge Tour and its presence on the calendar is hugely significant especially for Team Ireland supported golfers.
This is the third year we have hosted a tournament and so doing enables Team Ireland Golf to trade starts with other Challenge Tour events giving Irish golfers the opportunity to compete in events across the entire season.
Gavin Moynihan is the leading Irishman in the Road to Oman rankings heading into this week. The 22-year old gained his Challenge Tour card for next season after a runner-up spot earlier this year in Spain – that start coming directly from Team Ireland Golf.
“An event in Ireland is always great,” the Dubliner said after a meeting with Team Ireland Leader Des Smyth.
“The invites are huge, just for the schedule. You get at least eight starts before the year even begins.”
“Obviously runner up in Spain was a big thing for my year. I basically got a full card out of it. I can play 80 per cent of the year now which allows me to keep momentum.”
Moynihan is currently 27th in the Race to Oman with the top 15 securing full European Tour playing rights for 2018.
Smyth, who met with the Team Ireland players ahead of the event this week, is well aware of the hard work needed to progress on tour.
“A lot of these young players, as good as they are, will go through difficult periods where they are going to need help. I see these young guys coming through, and they’re very talented. From tee to green, there is very little that separates them from the stars we see on TV every week. Of course, they won’t all make it but they need time to get out there, to challenge themselves, to test themselves and see what they can do.”
“These guys have one thing in common and they want to succeed on the tour and they want to get on the European Tour and be a success. That’s what we want for them.”
Team Ireland is funded by Sport Ireland and administered by The Confederation of Golf in Ireland (CGI).
This year it is funding 12 aspiring golf professionals with grant-aid worth €94,500.
Stephanie Meadow, a rising star on the LPGA Tour, has received a grant of €18,000 – the highest award in 2017.
More than €3.5 million has been provided to golf professionals since the Team Ireland Golf scheme was introduced in 1999. Team Ireland Golf aims to contribute to an increase in the presence of Irish golf professionals on the various international tours.
As part of the support package, all golfers can avail of the world class facilities at the GUI’s National Golf Academy. The golfers on the scheme also have free access to a network of service providers such as physiologists, sports psychologists, biomechanists, physiotherapists, and doctors, all of which is coordinated by the Sport Ireland Institute at Abbottstown.
The Confederation of Golf in Ireland the GUI, ILGU and Sport Ireland are among the more than 220 organisations that play an active part of the Sport for Business community.