Headfort ready to test the Challenge Tour’s best
Club professional Brendan McGovern reckons course will stand up to professionals
Cormac Sharvin will be one of the home hopes at this week’s Stone Irish Challenge. Photo: Oisin Keniry/Inpho
For those young guns competing in this week’s Stone Irish Challenge at Headfort Golf Club in Kells, Co Meath, each one of them chasing that dream of making it to the big time, it might be worth their while taking some time out to pick the brains of the home club’s professional Brendan McGovern.
McGovern, who turned 54 years of age on Monday, is one of those who always talks sense. He has spent 29 years as the PGA Professional at the Meath course - which this week gets the opportunity to showcase its Christy O’Connor Junior-designed course, the newer of two on the wooded landscape – and it was only when he turned 50 that he truly got to chase his own dream as a tour player on the Staysure Tour.
That cut-throat Seniors circuit gave McGovern the opportunity to play in places from Moscow to Jordan and beyond, his best career finish coming at the 2017 Travis Perkins British Masters when he was runner-up. “I just love playing, the good and the bad. I always wanted to be a (tour) player when I was younger and it didn’t quite work out. Inside, I was always a golfer. When I got to 47 I thought I’d never get to 50 and I was fortunate enough to get my card,” recalled McGovern.
Given his affinity with Headfort, which is staging this tournament for the first time, the thought occurred to many that maybe he would give it a go against these young players who are on their own journeys. But not him. “I won’t be playing. I feel somewhere along the line you have to move on. There’s no point me keeping a young player out, you have to move on. I not starting a career, I am on the other side,” said the wise old head.
And so it is that this week’s Stone Irish Challenge will be a defining tournament of the season for many of those teeing up, given that it is the final full field event of the season on the Challenge Tour after which the leading 70 players retain their cards for next season and move onwards in the Race to Mallorca next month where full cards for next season’s PGA European Tour will be won.
This €200,000 tournament on the New Course has an added incentive for the winner, in that it will earn him a place in the upcoming two limited field events in China – the Hainan and Foshan Opens – while it is worth noting that each of the last three winners of the event have all gone on to play the European Tour the following season (Bernd Ritthammer, Julien Gurrier and more recently Oliver Wilson).
There is a strong Irish challenge in the event, headed by Cormac Sharvin – ranked eighth in the order of merit – and Gavin Moynihan, stepping back from the main tour, with the potential to be a stepping stone onto greater things should any of the 15-strong home brigade manage to lay claim to the title.
So, how will the wonderfully conditioned New Course stand up to these big-hitting young guns? “The Challenge Tour is a world tour and the standard is from all over the world. The standard is good and the scoring will be good. As far as these guys hit it length won’t be an issue but they will need to hit every club in the bag. It will be a good test,” said McGovern.