O'Keeffe bags Amateur Open and targets an Ireland cap
Peter O'Keeffe produced a ball-striking clinic to win the Flogas Irish Amateur Open by three shots and put his name in the frame for the Irish cap that has eluded him for years.
Reinstated in the amateur fold after completing the obligatory two-year transition period last year, the 35-year-old former Challenge Tour professional reinvented himself under coach and former Tour colleague Noel Fox, closing with a two-over 73 to win the blue riband Irish title on two-over par 286 at a blustery Royal County Down.
The big hitter from Douglas, Co. Cork, will be the first to admit that he had a short fuse during his five-year stint on the Challenge Tour. However, with his long game now as rock steady as his 6ft 5in frame proved to be in yesterday's 20mph gusts, he knows that a solid summer will give the Irish selectors serious food for thought when the time comes to pick the team for the Home Internationals at Moortown in August.
"There was a time in my life where everything revolved around trying to make the Home Internationals team and it didn't happen," said O'Keeffe, who extended his one shot overnight lead to four with a level par front nine, then extended his advantage to five with a birdie at the 11th.
"I'd absolutely love it, obviously. They should have their eyes on younger players. But I'm more than good enough to play at that level and I'd be delighted if it came my way. They need to pick the best team and I believe I am more than good enough to play."
Ireland cannot afford to ignore a man of O'Keeffe's experience and while he didn't miss a shot for the last three rounds, the mental strength he showed when draining a clutch eight footer for par at the 13th before recovering from an unsettling four-putt double bogey six at the 15th was impressive.
"I had a feeling I was going to win something big this year," O'Keeffe said after pars at the 16th and 17th gave him a four-shot lead going to the 18th, where he could afford a closing bogey six and still win comfortably from Scotland's Christopher MacLean (75) and England's Tom Sloman (72).
"I must credit Noel Fox. The guy is a super player and coach. I played together with him on the Challenge Tour and I decided I wanted to surround myself with the best people I possibly could.
"I don't get flustered on a golf course any more. When I was on tour, there were times when I'd be ripping gloves off my hand on the golf course. Crazy stuff.
"I have done a complete full circle on that. But it took a lot of work, a long time and a lot of bad experiences to realise that was the way forward."