Cannon straightens out problem for South defence
When a golfer starts seeing pink elephants, it's usually time to start writing him off as a serious title contender.
But that's certainly not the case for Laytown and Bettystown's Robbie Cannon (31), who heads to Lahinch hopeful about his chances of defending the South of Ireland Amateur Open Championship.
One of 64 seeded players who have been given a bye into tomorrow's second round, the Irish international has struggled so far this season to reproduce the kind of form that saw him clinch his maiden amateur Major at the classic Co Clare links 12 months ago. At least, he was struggling until he made a visit to Padraig Harrington's fitness coach Dr Liam Hennessy and made a startling discovery.
"I found I was playing well for 16 holes or so and then hitting destructive shots that would cause me to make doubles or trebles that would ruin a round," Cannon explained.
"My form was good for the majority of a round, but then the destructive shots were showing up when I was under pressure.
"It turned out that I had a spasm in my traps -- the trapezius muscle from the shoulder to the neck. The muscle would get active and I'd hit that bad shot off the planet.
"So, we did a full, three-hour body screening and, as Liam put it, that was the pink elephant that was showing up. I have been on some exercises to normalise it have been hitting the ball much straighter."
Winning the South is a massive goal for Limerick's Pat Murray, who fell at the semi-final stage for the sixth time last year.
The Tipperary native, who celebrates his 39th birthday with a practice round at nearby Doonbeg today, claimed last season's Irish Close title at Enniscrone, but would dearly love to crown a fine career with victory at Lahinch.
"It's about time I took that extra step," said Murray, who is one of four amateurs nominated by the GUI to tee it up in next week's '3' Irish Open at Killarney. "I'll drive down to Killarney as soon as I am done here. Hopefully, that will be on Wednesday night. There's plenty of room in the car for the cup!"
Murray will find Irish amateur team-mates Alan Dunbar, Cian Curley and Paul Cutler waiting for him in Kerry, which is good news for the rest of the field at Lahinch, where the title race looks more open than ever.
The field features a host of young guns hoping to make their mark as well as a raft of former winners including Cannon, veteran Barry Reddan (1987), Peter Sheehan (1993), Simon Ward (2006) and Darren Crowe (2007).
Retired Ennis schoolteacher Noel Pyne (64) will be making his 48th consecutive appearance in the South when he face Skerries' Sam Devey in today's first round.