Ireland’s European Challenge Tour contingent have the perfect opportunity to follow their European Tour ‘big brothers’ on home soil this week at the Challenge of Ireland presented by Moyvalley.
After the early season heroics of Rory McIlroy, Michael Hoey and Shane Lowry on The European Tour, the Challenge Tour’s Irish players have the chance to follow that victory path on the magnificent Darren Clarke-designed Champions Club at Moyvalley Hotel and Country Club in Co. Kildare.
Michael McGeady, Ireland’s last Challenge Tour champion who won the SWALEC Wales Challenge last summer, certainly feels that the time has come for the Challenge Tour’s Irish players to get back on the road to winning ways.
He said: “When you look at the results of guys like Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and especially Michael Hoey – who has played on the Challenge Tour alongside a lot of the Irish players in the field this week – it definitely gives you a boost to see these guys succeeding.
“What Shane did at The Irish Open was unbelievable. The thing that struck me was his attitude. I think the first time we saw any emotion from him was on the 14th in the last round when he gave off that massive fist pump, but that was exactly the right time to show what it meant to him.
“It would be nice to think we can produce a home winner this week, because there are a lot of very talented young Irish players on the Challenge Tour. Gareth Shaw is one player that sticks out for me at the moment. He is a very talented player and playing well at the moment, so he will have a great chance this week.
“I feel as though I am close to contending for tournaments as well. I have played in four European Tour events this year and gained some great experience there. I am learning all the time, and feel like I am not far away from putting some good results together.”
McGeady can’t wait to get out on the Champions Club at Moyvalley Hotel and Country Club this week, a venue he believes will produce a worthy winner of the €150,000 event.
“The golf course is very impressive and a great test,” said McGeady. “I actually sneaked on there for a practice round last week and the course is in brilliant condition.
“The greens are fantastic and the rough is going to play its part, because it is very high at points and I think the course will play tough – but it is also scoreable in the right places.”
There will be a total of 23 Irishmen in the field this week looking to produce the first home winner in the event’s five-year history.
Australia’s Andrew Tampion is back in Ireland to defend the title he won last year, along with his compatriot Scott Arnold, the former World Number One amateur who is seeking to collect his first paycheque since joining the professional ranks last month.
The 23 year old from Sydney, who succeeded Johnnie Walker Classic winner Danny Lee as the world’s leading amateur player, recently made his professional debut in The European Open, before making his maiden Challenge Tour appearance in the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Markus Brier Foundation last week.
Arnold – who won the 2006 Hong Kong Amateur, the 2008 Riversdale Cup, this year’s Lake Macquarie Amateur Championship and most recently the Australian Amateur Championship in a glittering amateur career – will now hope to capture his maiden professional title at Moyvalley Hotel and Country Club.
Arnold said: “My last event as an amateur was The Irish Open, so Ireland will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s a great place to play golf, which is why I’m really excited about teeing up in the Challenge of Ireland. John Wade and Andrew Tampion have both won the title in previous years, so hopefully I can make it a hat-trick of Australian winners!
“It’s certainly not going to be easy though, because the level of competition on the Challenge Tour is now stronger than ever – you only have to look at the likes of Tano Goya, Michael Hoey and most recently Jeppe Huldahl, who both played on the Challenge Tour last year and have already won on The European Tour this year. So it’s going to be tough, but I’m really looking forward to it.
“It’s always been my aim to play professional golf in Europe. There are so many challenges for rookie professionals in Europe, and plenty of Australians have done well down the years. It’s definitely where I think my game will improve the most.”