Hume bidding to match McIlroy with back-to-back West titles
RORY McIlroy will spend Easter gearing his mind, body and golf game in pursuit of US Master glory, but closer to home, Naas' Jack Hume is looking to emulate the World No 1 by winning back-to-back Radisson Blu West of Ireland championships.
Ten years ago, a 15-year-old McIlroy displayed his precocious talent by becoming the youngest winner of the West since the championship began in 1923.
Within weeks he had added the Irish Close title to his CV.
A year later he retained both championships, and the rest is glorious golfing history.
McIlroy has elevated himself to the World No 1 slot, but he was once an amateur chasing GUI titles, and retaining any of the five Irish amateur majors is no easy feat.
The challenge for Walker Cup squad member Hume is to match McIlroy's 2005/06 'West double', and he intends to give it his best shot.
Defending champion Hume, and Irish Close title holder John Ross Galbraith (Whitehead), returned early this week from Argentina, where they were on a four-man GUI team along with Gary Hurley (West Waterford) and The Island's Gavin Moynihan.
Hume and Galbraith are exempt from the 36-hole stroke-play qualifying which starts today, and have a bye into Sunday's first round of match-play. Moynihan has opted to take a break, while Hurley competes in the R&A Foundation Scholars Tournament.
Hume said: "I played pretty nicely in Argentina. I could have been a few places better but it's a solid start to the season. Hopefully I'll build on that.
"It definitely helps being competitive and sharp leading into the bigger events."
Last year's beaten finalist Robbie Cannon (Balbriggan), a former South of Ireland and Irish Amateur Open winner, tuned up for this championship by playing in the prestigious Azalea Invitational in South Carolina.
Cannon, Shane Lowry's fitness coach, had not played competitive golf since the 2014 South of Ireland, and was pleased to get four rounds under his belt.
"Last year was my first time to reach the final of the West. I played well all week, but lost my rhythm in the final, and I'd love to go further this year.
"Conditions are going be a factor. It's all on the day and experience is going to be a factor.
"I've been there before and won a couple of championships, so I'd love to add to that this season, starting this week," said Cannon.