The long walk from the 17th green of the Championship course to the clubhouse in Headfort Golf Club is a tiresome one – and mostly uphill. Even I was breathing slightly heavily after a brisk walk to get into position for post round interviews – it being the morning after flying home from a lad’s holiday probably didn’t help!
But for Quentin Carew each step was another step closer to him fully believing he belongs at this level after he beat Sam Murphy 2&1 to advance to the semi-finals of the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship.
As the Tallaght based Garda limped towards the awaiting media with his girlfriend and some family members it was clear that the he was still feeling the effects of an unfortunate car accident last year when he was rearended.
“Yeah last year I was in a crash and had a bad injury from it on my back I had trusions on my disc onto my spine so constantly putting pressure on it,” explained the Castleknock member. “At the start of the year, 18 holes was all that was in me and got a lot of work on it, plenty of stretching and it’s slowly getting better.
“I am feeling it, luckily I had the massage gun to keep me ticking over but yeah just rest up as best I can and hopefully be fresh tomorrow,” he added with a night of ice baths and stretching awaiting him before tackling Paul Conroy in the morning on Wednesday.
Once of Edenderry, the 29-year-old is best known for finishing runner-up in last year’s Irish Mid-Amateur to Paul O’Hanlon in Thurles while he was still attached to the Offaly club.
While much of the attention during the knockout stages of the Close has been on the bottom half of the draw with Hugh Foley, Matthew McClean, Peter O’Keeffe, Max Kennedy, Richard Knightly, Jack McDonnell and Alan Fahy all featuring in a top heavy last-64, Carew has been the story of the championship so far, although his journey seemed unlikely on Sunday night.
At 65th after two rounds of strokeplay qualifying, he needed the golfing gods to shine on him and luckily, they did, and he edged into the 64th and final spot after a better back nine than Roscommon’s Allan Hill in round two saw him through.
He faced the daunting task of leading qualifier, course record setter, East of Ireland champion and Amateur semi-finalist, Alex Maguire in the first round of the matchplay and he produced the shock of the tournament winning 2&1 meaning the last three leading qualifiers have been knocked out in the first round this season.
The scalp opened a clear path for Carew to take advantage and have a serious run in the championship with the lower half of the draw stacked with big names and he feels the win over Maguire gave him the belief he could contend this week.
“Absolutely, Alex is one of the top players in the country and I said to myself if I can beat him I am capable of beating anyone then. That was huge for me and gave me a big confidence boost which is something I lack a bit in myself that bit of self-belief so I think you need something like that to jump start you.
“I played well I was really happy with my game it was a great booster for me, big time.”
That belief and confidence has been there for all to see with Carew being involved in four extremely tight matches to make it to the semi-finals. A 2&1 win over Rory Milne of Faithlegg was followed by a 1UP win over Elm Park’s Jake Foley in round three before coming from 1DN on 12 to beat Murphy on 17.
The key? Slow and steady wins the race.
“Every one of them there has been a bit of stress in it for me, 17 is the furthest I’ve gone. I think just the last few holes I have not been making any major mistakes I have been hitting the middle of the greens and that’s what I was trying to do in all four of my matches going down the last few holes.
“I was ahead and my brother was caddying for me and he was saying ‘let them take the chances, you do the simple things and that’s what I was trying to do give myself a good position to have birdie chances if I can and if I make them, win the holes and I think that was the big thing for me.”
The question remains, can Quentin etch his name alongside the likes of Rory McIlroy, Pádraig Harrington, Shane Lowry, Darren Clarke, Peter Lawrie, Graeme McDowell and Paul McGinley? He might not get a better chance he admits.
“I won’t get a better chance now than where I am now and obviously the three lads are left are going to be serious. A tough one to get over the line.”