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GUI rejuvenates Senior panel as teens do their own thing

Policemen might appear younger every year but the GUI's national senior panel is most certainly getting more youthful. Not only that, three Irish teenagers who are not even on the senior panel have decided to get more experience by entering next week's Alps Tour Q-School as amateurs.

Last season's 17-strong senior panel had an average age of 22.4 years but with Reeve Whitson (23), Rory McNamara (25) and Richie O'Donovan (24) all turning pro and Stephen Healy (25), Geoff Lenehan (27), Robbie Cannon (35) and Harry Diamond (30) all dropped, the 2015 panel averages 21.2 years.

Take out 28-year old Richard Bridges and 27-year old East of Ireland winner Colm Campbell and the average age drops to 20.3, which reflects the new trend in amateur golf — students and school-goers dominating the championships with working amateurs left to do their own thing until they turn their attention of the mid-amateur scene when they turn 35.

Reduced from 17 to 15 players, there are just three new additions to the senior panel with 17-year old Munster Youths champion James Sugrue from Mallow — he turns 18 next week — joined by 20-year old Irish Close champion John-Ross Galbraith and 18-year old British Boys runner-up Rowan Lester.

The Development panel features the likes of South of Ireland winner Stuart Bleakley, Naas' Conor O'Rourke and three players who are going to the Alps Tour Q-School next week — Killarney's Tommy O'Driscoll (18), Athlone's Sean Doyle (16 last week) and Carton House's David Carey (18).

O'Driscoll and Carey (who is not on any panels) are exempt into the final stage having played in this year's European Boys Championship.

Both Carey and Doyle are following in the footsteps of O'Driscoll, who competed in the qualifying school in 2013 , making the Final Qualifying rounds. 

"It was a fantastic experience," O'Driscoll said. "Mixing it with pros albeit at a lower level gave me the confidence and inspiration to really look forward to my last year on the boys calendar. 

"Hopefully this year I can take it a step further. I would love to win a card even though I have no intention of turning pro. I would consider it if i reached Challenge Tour level but for the moment I need to play events in different countries and on different courses. 

"The Alps Tour holds events in more than five countries beginning in Egypt in February so it is a wonderful stepping stone."

As O'Driscoll points out, Edouard Espana played on the Alps Tour in 2013, winning his Challenge Tour card through the Top-5 and has now graduated to the European Tour for 2015.



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