Cannon fired up for South bid by memory of late coach
There's nothing like the excitement of a Major championship to focus the mind and Robbie Cannon is as inspired by Henrik Stenson's Open win as he is by thoughts of another victory in this week's Pierse Motors South of Ireland Amateur Open at Lahinch.
The 37-year-old strength and conditioning coach - winner of the South in 2009 and the 2013 Irish Amateur Open - tees it up in the 36-hole strokeplay qualifier for the 115th staging of the event today with his late coach Bobby Browne in his thoughts.
The great Laytown and Bettystown professional, who passed away on Christmas Day last, was a mentor for Cannon and many others.
But it was only when he heard Stenson dedicate his Open Championship win to a late friend that the Balbriggan international remembered why he took the fairways with such relish in January and February.
"When you lose someone close to you, it seems to focus the mind and when Bobby died in December, it really gave me the push to go out and start working on my game," Cannon said.
"I didn't work hard last year and remembering all Bobby did for me just made me want to go out and work hard for it again."
Cannon now works with a big clientele on tour that includes Shane Lowry, bringing him into regular contact with Stenson's coach Pete Cowen.
"Any time I see him he always ask how my game is and what I am working on and gives me a lesson," Cannon said.
"He always asks if I am doing my drills. 'Henrik is the only one who does all the drills,' he says. "So when I saw him at the Scottish Open, he said he wasn't surprised to see I finished third in the East a few weeks ago."
Cannon's third-place finish behind Paul O'Hanlon at Baltray makes him a clear favourite at Lahinch, where a stellar field has gathered.
While title holder Stuart Grehan is competing for Great Britain & Ireland at the St Andrews Trophy, last year's leading qualifier, Paul McBride, is one of six current internationals in the field.
World No 147 McBride is the top-ranked player in the 150-man field ahead of Irish Amateur Open champion Colm Campbell and fellow internationals Alex Gleeson, Colin Fairweather, Rowan Lester, Robin Dawson and John-Ross Galbraith.
East winner O'Hanlon is playing in just his second championship since returning to the amateur ranks. The top 64 players after tomorrow's second qualifying round will progress to the match play stage from Friday.