Thursday 14 December 2017

Hume raring to go as he chases historic double at Royal Dublin

Jack Hume (Picture Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE)
Jack Hume (Picture Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE)

Brian Keogh

Jack Hume believes he's ready to deal with everything mother nature can throw at him at Royal Dublin when he bids to become the first player for 58 years to complete the double of 'the West' and the Irish Amateur Open.

The blue riband event gets under way at the storied Dollymount links today with 120 players from 19 nations, including a 70-strong overseas invasion, bracing itself for west winds forecast to gust over 30mph.

But after breaking his senior championship duck at Rosses Point last month, Naas ace Hume (20) believes he's ready for anything and he's more determined than ever after a 72nd-hole mistake cost him a place in last year's play-off, won by Balbriggan's Robbie Cannon.

"I feel I'm improving all the time and I think I'm stronger as a stroke player than a match player, even though I won in Sligo," said Hume, who could become the first player since the legendary Joe Carr in 1956 to win the West and the Irish Amateur Stroke play titles in the same season.

"Royal Dublin is always a tough test and with the forecast for a lot of wind, I think it will be a bit of a battle this week. It'll be tough. But I think I am used to those kind of conditions now and I can handle them, so I'm hopeful. I had a chance to make the play-off last year, but got too cute trying to get up and down from a downslope left of the 18th and missed out by one.

"But If I play like I did last year, I feel I can give myself a chance and maybe get the win this time."

A change in the format – the event has moved from three to four days with a cut after 54 holes, replacing the 36-hole slog on Sunday with just one round – has attracted the strongest field in years.

South African Amateur champion Thriston Lawrence is arguably the favourite following his win in the Lytham Trophy last Sunday, with his compatriot Christiaan Bezuidenhout also highly fancied.

Ireland has a strong contingent and while West Waterford's Gary Hurley, fourth at Lytham, has pulled out due to exam pressures, seventh placed finisher Dermot McElroy of Ballymena is ready for another attempt to break his major championship duck.

"It could have been a different story at Lytham if I had holed my chances inside eight feet," said McElroy, who like Hume, missed the play-off by just one shot last year. "But I'm very happy with my game going to Royal Dublin."

Given the forecast, the event looks wide open and while Ireland's Rory McNamara and Reeve Whitson will be expected to shine, newcomers to the senior ranks such as Faithlegg's Robin Dawson and The Island's Paul McBride may well have a say against a strong England and Scottish contingent.

As for the defending champion Cannon (35), it just seems he gets stronger with age – as he showed when reaching the final of 'the West.'

Down in the dumps after picking up an injury over the winter, an invitation from Pádraig Harrington to watch him train was all it took to brighten the Balbriggan man's mood.

"Seeing how keen he is and how crazy he still is about his golf was very contagious," Cannon said. "It gave me great impetus going forward."

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