Friday 20 October 2017

Former Deise star Flynn hoping for the best in West

Paul Flynn won three Munster titles as a left wing-forward for Waterford
Paul Flynn won three Munster titles as a left wing-forward for Waterford

Brian Keogh

Mourne's Reeve Whitson wants to take another giant step towards a Walker Cup place, but former Waterford hurler Paul Flynn just wants to enjoy the experience when he make his debut in the West of Ireland Amateur Open at Rosses Point today.

The 38-year-old won three Munster titles as a left wing-forward with the Decies and played in all the great GAA venues before that 2008 All-Ireland final defeat to mighty Kilkenny at Croke Park brought the curtain down on a fine career.

The 123-man field in the West is the best in the history of the event, with the cut-off for handicaps falling at a record low of 0.0, forcing a host of scratch golfers to tee it up in an experimental 18-hole pre-qualifier for just three places in the field proper earlier this week.

Having entered off plus 0.1, Flynn was spared that ordeal, but is bracing himself for a tough mental test at County Sligo, where the top 64 after the 36 holes of stroke play will make the first round of match play combat on Sunday.

"I've never been to Rosses Point before, so I'm hoping that ignorance might help," joked Flynn, who won a Munster Senior Cup pennant with Tramore last year.

"I have no expectations and hopefully, I won't be hitting it sideways and I'll give myself a chance."

Hurling

Having played senior inter-county hurling for 15 years and a season in goal for League of Ireland side Waterford United before that, Flynn is not so sure that his vast experience in top-flight sport will stand to him when he rubs shoulders with the best golfers in the country.

"I had an idea of what I was doing with the hurling, but it wasn't as tough mentally as golf," he said.

While Flynn only took up the game when he was 23, getting down to scratch late last year, 21-year-old Whitson has golf in his blood, having learned the game from his father Kevan, the long-serving Royal County Down professional.

His victory in the Spanish Amateur Open Championship at La Manga earlier this month was his first major triumph, earning him a place in the European Tour's Spanish Open next month.

He wants to build on that win and make an impression on the Walker Cup selectors with a big season – starting this week.

With the exception of British Amateur champion Alan Dunbar, who is preparing for the Masters, all the leading Irish internationals are taking part, headed by plus-five handicapper Richard O'Donovan from Lucan.

No fewer than 89 players in the field play off plus-one or better, and there are high hopes for Ballymena's Dermot McElroy, Headfort's Rory McNamara and last year's beaten finalist Stephen Healy of Claremorris.

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