Monkstown’s McNamara has second bite at the Irish Open

Monkstown’s McNamara has second bite at the Irish Open

Golf_Cian McNamara_Monkstown GC_June2014

By Niall O’Shea

A year ago Cian McNamara was facing a daunting trip to Carton House for his first appearance in the Irish Open.  12 months later the Monkstown PGA professional is relishing a return to the event that saw make headlines with four under par first round.  Naturally McNamara is delighted to be back playing in the big time, the Limerick man qualified last year thanks to his top eight finish on the PGA Ireland Order of Merit, and a similar finish in 2013 saw another invitation being issued.   Having excelled in the amateur game, McNamara won at every level including a prestigious South of Ireland Championship in 2004.  He was the youngest golfer to win it at 18 years old, and the following four years saw him go on scholarship to East Tennessee State.  He continued to play for his province and country whenever possible, racking up an impressive number of Irish caps.  He has representative honours for both Munster and Ireland from Boys to Senior and captained the GB&I Boys team in 2004.  After three successful years on the Irish Senior team, he turned pro in 2008.  McNamara secured an assistants job with Lee Harrington in Limerick GC, and after serving his time and qualifying under the PGA programme his first professional appointment came when he took a role at Monkstown Golf Club.  Cian has been attached to Monkstown since late 2012 and splits his time between his base in Cork and tournament golf.

McNamara settled into his new workplace quickly and seems very much at home in the Cork club; “There are a lot of similarities between Limerick GC and Monkstown.  There’s a great sense of history and tradition in both clubs and the members here are very knowledgable when it comes to golf.  I got a great welcome from Hilary Madden and all of the staff and they also take a keen interest in my game.  The members too have welcomed me and I’ve made lots of friends including Charlie Hill who has been very supportive.”  Cian works closely with Simon Keelan, who is working towards his full PGA qualification himself.  Both golfers are good friends and Simon caddied for Cian during the Irish Open last year.

While McNamara is kept busy in Monkstown, he has been a regular attendee at the PGA Ireland events, and he’s recorded his fair share of successes.  He has racked up 25 top five finishes in PGA events over the past three seasons, including a win last week at the Athenry PGA Sprint.  Although widely experienced in Irish terms at both amateur and professional level, the first tee of a high profile European Tour event is sure to test the resolve of even an experienced tour professional.  That said McNamara clearly understands that playing tournament golf is what professional golf is all about, he calls it “having a card in your pocket”, and the Limerick man seems to appreciate that every tournament needs to be viewed as potential pay-day.  He proved this with his attitude and performance in Carton House last year.

McNamara’s 36 hole Irish Open experience was a bit of a roller-coaster with highs on Thursday matched by a tougher ride on Friday.  Despite missing the cut at the final hole Cian doesn’t have too many regrets and he’s always looking to the future; “I actually came away with my head high as I understood that I had messed up, but for myself it had certainly given me the belief that I can play golf alongside these guys.  I enjoyed the occasion and was comfortable with the surroundings so I felt that was a nice positive to take away.  Because of the great experience last year I’m particularly excited to compete this year.  I have being treated very well by Fota’s Director of Golf Kevin Morris so I will have no excuses with my course planning come the time of the event.  Without doubt my driving was not to the standard last year, so I have worked quite hard with my Coach Eddie Doyle in Heritage Golf Club and now feel that this is an element that I can rely on rather that protect against.  I’ve worked with several coaches but since I started with Eddie I’ve seen a continuous improvement especially with my driving.”

Although he lacks a main sponsor, Cian has support in place from Glenmuir for his clothing and Taylormade look after all of his equipment.  He’s also quick to mention Mike O’Riordan from STL Logistics who also supported him since he turned professional.  Free equipment is one thing, but it has to be fit for purpose and Cian is very happy with his switch over to Taylor Made; “After I got the spot for last year’s Irish Open I tried some of their equipment and saw an immediate improvement, especially with my woods.  I’ve changed all of my equipment and work closely with the Taylor Made tour rep Adrian Reitveld.”  McNamara will have Simon Keelan on his bag again this year.  The pair worked well in Carton so Fota should see more of the same.  While most golf fans will be looking for Irish success in the form of McIlroy, Lowry or Harrington, watch out for the Monkstown and Limerick GC members who’ll be rooting for their own man.  With his team, his equipment and his game in good shape, McNamara will be one to watch in Fota.

Golf_Cian McNamara_Monkstown GC_June2014_2

McNamara’s Thoughts on last year’s Irish Open Experience
Although McNamara would be forgiven for showing a few nerves on the opening day, any nerves quickly turned to confidence as the round progressed; “I was delighted to have the opportunity and anxious to see how I would react to the situation. Thankfully I felt comfortable in the surroundings.  I remember the round just going by so fast, possibly showing how much I was enjoying it.  What I can remember and always will was the reaction from the crowd when I holed my birdie putt on 18.”  McNamara clocked up five birdies for a four under par return and a top ten place just two off the lead.

It’s one thing to play 18 holes in a major competition; it’s another thing to prepare for the second round when you’re in to top ten and the centre of attention for fans and media.  And add in the fact that it was Cian’s 27th birthday;  “I was very calm I can remember, and was making sure I was rested and was ready for the following day.  I can remember waking up on the Friday and my girlfriend Siobhan worried about forgetting my birthday present “I was like, don’t worry, we have slightly more important things to face today.  My play was very average on the Friday but to be fair, conditions were very tough.  I missed an important putt on my 13th from 3ft to go back to +2 and then 3 putted the next.  I really felt like that was the turning point, as I could have being easily +2 going onto 16 and well inside mark to +4 and on the mark.  I got anxious then and this lead to further mistakes, but it was understandable as I was competing for more than I had in the past.”

 

What’s in the Bag:
Driver: TaylorMade SLDR 10.5 loft, Fujikura Rombex X- flex shaft
Fairway/Rescue: TaylorMade SLDR
Irons: TaylorMade Tour Preferred, Project X 6.5s
Wedges: TaylorMade Tour Preferred
Putter: TaylorMade Ghost
Ball: TaylorMade Tour Preferred

 

The Golfers – The field for the Irish Open at Fota Island
Despite the absence of a title sponsor, the Irish Open still has one of the larger purses and has attracted a strong field.  Popular American John Daly will also be teeing it up and will over 20 Irish golfers.  In addition to the European Tour members, the PGA and the GUI also receive a number of places and these have now been confirmed.  Spare a thought however for Waterville’s David Higgins and Waterford’s Kevin Phelan.  Both currently outside the cut-off point for qualifying and will be anxiously watching for withdrawals to get their starting spot in Fota.

European Tour Members:
Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, Rory, McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Shane Lowry, Paul McGinley, Michael Hoey, Simon Thornton, Damien McGrane, Gareth Maybin, Peter Lawrie.

PGA Ireland Order of Merit:
Cian McNamara, Daniel Sugrue, Mark Staunton, John Kelly, Eamonn Brady, Brendan McGovern, Brian McElhinney, Damien Mooney.

Amateurs:
Gary Hurley (West Waterford), Gavin Moynihan (The Island), Robbie Cannon (Balbriggan), Dermot McElroy (Ballymena).

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