New perspective helps McDonagh rise to Royal task
IT was one of those days on Bull Island where you'd get three seasons in the space of 10 minutes.
Not that Kelan McDonagh (22) was bothered by the vagaries of the weather or the slings and arrows which can assail those who venture out onto the grand old links at Royal Dublin.
Recent events have given McDonagh a new perspective. In the four months since his girlfriend Claire Condron, also 22, was diagnosed with leukemia in January, McDonagh has learned that golf, albeit a powerful driving force in his life, is still only a game.
Acceptance is a priceless commodity on the links, as McDonagh discovered once again yesterday as he posted a level-par 72 on a squally, wind-tossed first day at the Irish Amateur Open.
This left the talented Athlone man just two shy of Massereene's Tiarnan McLarnon (20) -- a golf scholarship student at UUJ -- and Carrickmacross native Simon Ward (25), both of whom compiled 70s.
McDonagh reports that Claire is making good progress at St James's Hospital in Dublin after receiving a bone-marrow transplant a fortnight ago and, clearly, he's been inspired by her brave battle with cancer.
"Definitely, it has put golf in perspective," he says. "Over the years, I'd throw away a few shots here or there just by getting annoyed, but now it doesn't really matter where the ball is, as long as I can find it again.
"I have learned that whether you make par or bogey doesn't matter. You walk to the next tee anyway."
McDonagh, Irish Youths Champion in 2009 and Mullingar Scratch Cup-winner in 2010, has been a full-time amateur golfer since his graduation from NUI Maynooth, where he was studied under the Paddy Harrington Scholarship Scheme.
He remains determined to leave no stone unturned in his efforts to re-establish himself on the Irish National Panel and, ultimately, forge a career in golf. "I've moved up from Athlone to live in Kilcock," McDonagh explained. "I joined Carton House and play there in the mornings; go to the gym in the afternoon and then see Claire in the evenings -- it's a rigid routine and it's actually helping my golf."
After missing the cut in three previous visits to the Irish Amateur Open, McDonagh was among the mere handful who matched or broke par yesterday, including Ballymena's hot teenage prospect, Dermot McElroy and talented 20-year-old New Yorker Mike Miller who shot superb 71s.
McLarnon sank a sensational 60-foot putt for birdie at 18 to claim his place at the top, while Ward took advantage of a break in the weather yesterday evening by playing the punishing back nine at Royal Dublin in a bogey-free four-under-par.