O'Keeffe defied the odds to join rare set of elite Cork amateur golfers

O'Keeffe defied the odds to join rare set of elite Cork amateur golfers
Peter O'Keeffe (Douglas) winner of the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship at Royal County Down Golf Club with (from left) John (brother), John Boylan (President, Douglas Golf Club) and Noel (father). Picture: Pat Cashman

HE might have won the biggest amateur golf on Sunday but on Tuesday morning Peter O’Keeffe was back at work in Dennehy’s Gym.

It was back to the day job for the Irish Amateur Open winner.  Peter had a busy week ahead, making up for missing work on Monday, and catching up after taking most of last week off. 

That’s the reality for a working elite amateur. Over the past few years, the majority of winner of the showpiece national golf championships have been students or full-time amateurs. 

In spite of the inherent disadvantage, you get the feeling that O’Keeffe wouldn’t have it any other way. 

After spending the past 20 years at elite levels through junior golf, US college golf, several years as a professional and most recently as an amateur, O’Keeffe has earned his stripes. 

On Sunday he became the first Corkman in almost 30 years to win one if the two elite national events. 

John McHenry was the last man to win the Irish Close (1986) and you have to go back to 1955 find the last Cork winner of the Irish Open when John Fitzgibbon won. 

Athough Peter is back on the amateur scene for over 12 months, it was his first time back in a national event (he last played in the Open in 2007). 

This time last year he was in the final stages of opening a new Dennehy’s gym in Blackpool, and his golf was limited to local events. 

Mark O'Connell and Peter O'Keeffe go through some golf specific fitness exercises ar Dennehy's Blackpool. Picture: Niall O'Shea
Mark O'Connell and Peter O'Keeffe go through some golf specific fitness exercises ar Dennehy's Blackpool. Picture: Niall O'Shea

This year it was different. He practiced in the off-season and started with a bang in April when he won the Mid-West Alliance. 

He had a tough loss at the Munster Strokeplay when a bogey on the last hole saw him finish in second place. 

That wasn’t going to happen on Sunday. 

Starting with a one shot lead, O’Keeffe played steady par golf as all around him dropped shots. 

He had a five shot lead after 11 holes and although he double bogied the 15th, that was the only lapse and he cantered home winning by three shots. 

One of the small things that helped O’Keeffe on Sunday’s final round was his caddy Andrew McCormack. 

McCormack, who won the Douglas Senior Scratch Cup last year pipping Peter for the title, missed the 54 hole cut and offered to caddy for O’Keeffe in his final round. 

Peter O'Keeffe at Royal County Down Golf Club. Picture: Pat Cashman
Peter O'Keeffe at Royal County Down Golf Club. Picture: Pat Cashman

“We were staying in the same house, and when he missed the cut he offered to caddy for me on Sunday,” explained O’Keeffe.

“He’s a great guy, we got to know each other last year at the interprovincials. We have the same sense of humour and we got on really well. He was a wizard when it came to reading greens and he definitely helped me with a few lines.” 

O’Keeffe was at ease in the Newcastle links from the start, the course suited him and he was in good company.

“I rented a house for the week and we had a great group staying here,” said the winner. “Andrew (McCormack), John Murphy and Cathal Butler stayed in the house and we all got on great together. 

"When I got here first, I knew I was comfortable here.  I had the pace of the greens so everything kind of slotted into place at the right time.” 

Playing in the final group, Peter was also delighted to see a few familiar faces on Sunday morning.

“My Dad and my brother John were up on Portrush at the Northwest 200, and they came down on the Sunday,” said the Munster Strokeplay runner-up. Douglas President John Boylan and his son came up on Sunday morning and it was great to see them on the first tee.” 

While many golfers are heading to Castletroy on Saturday for their Scratch Cup, Peter will be playing in Douglas, fulfilling a commitment to his friend Karl Bornemann.

“I’m playing in Karl’s captains prize this weekend, and I’ll need to sit down later this week to plan out my schedule. I’ve entered all of the Irish championships and the British Amateur. I’ve received an invite for the Brabazon [British Strokeplay Championship] and I’ll see if I get any other invites.” 

Whethter the invites come or not, you certainly get the feeling that this isn’t the last time that O’Keeffe will claim a win in 2017.

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