McElroy puts pro move on hold in bid to conquer West
Dermot McElroy has shelved plans to turn professional mid-season and has set his sights on breaking his amateur duck when the West of Ireland Amateur Open gets under way at Rosses Point today.
The 21-year-old Ballymena star is tipped to become the next big thing in Irish golf, despite narrowly failing to win his tour card at last year's European Tour Qualifying School.
He's already 61st on the planet in the amateur rankings but knows he's going to have to find some form with the putter if he's to avoid another early exit in the West and finally add an amateur 'Major' to his list of achievements.
Second favourite behind defending champion Rory McNamara to win at Co Sligo, McElroy said: "It's all going to depend on how the putter is working. I've a habit of missing four three-footers a round and that's just giving holes away, so that's going to be key, especially if it's very windy.
"Hopefully this year it will be a bit different for me on the greens but to be honest, my putting's been very poor this year.
"After South Africa and the Spanish events, it was really awful. I just couldn't break 33 putts for any round, but I've put in a lot of practice since then and it's coming along.
"I've no idea when I will turn professional, but I don't think it will be this year. I'm going to finish the amateur season. I had thought about going after the British Amateur at Royal Portrush and Portstewart but I think I'd just like to wait."
Beaten in the early rounds in his first four visits to Rosses Point, McElroy's goal is to become a Major winner before joining the paid ranks.
"I just want to win one of the big amateur events, so it'd be nice to win a West or the North of Ireland," he said.
"I've never managed to get past the third round at the West and I've gifted people holes by missing short putts. But that's all in the past. All I'm thinking about now is having a good run here for a change."
A 132-strong field will play two stroke-play qualifying rounds at Rosses Point today and tomorrow with the top 64 winning a spot in Sunday's match-play draw, with the final scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.
Headfort's McNamara is the favourite to become the first player since Rory McIlroy in 2006 to successfully defend the title.
But he faces some stiff opposition from the likes of 2012 champion Harry Diamond, Co Sligo's Gary McDermott and internationals Jack Hume, Reeve Whitson and Gary Hurley.
Irish Amateur Open champion Robbie Cannon, Claremorris' Stephen Healy and Massereene's Tiarnan McLarnon are also fancied to go well.