Team Ireland Golf success as Moynihan breaks through

​Gavin Moynihan reflects on a stellar season and how the support of Team Ireland Golf transformed his year

  • 20 November 2017

Picture: Gavin Moynihan began the season without any status but ended the year by winning his card for the European Tour | Golffile

The problem with being a professional golfer is that before you can start to make money, you have to earn the right to play.

Gavin Moynihan learned that lesson the hard way. He finished his first season in the paid ranks a wondering, wandering nomad. His results in 2016 were not good enough to secure a card for the European Challenge Tour and in order to play in a lower league, he had to stump up an entry fee for Qualifying School.

Even then, there were no guarantees. Failure to graduate from the PGA EuroPro Q School would have left him in a precarious position just over a year into his professional career. At Final Stage, he made the cut with one shot to spare. The signs were still not encouraging.

He finished tied for 33rd that week, an inauspicious position from which to relaunch his fledgling career.

"At the start of the year, I was planning on playing a whole year on EuroPro to be honest," says Moynihan.

His one saving grace was the support of Team Ireland Golf, which would provide €4,500 in funding and more significantly, four guaranteed playing invitations on Challenge Tour.

Professional golf is nothing if not a gamble: The flipside can turn up a fortune.

At his first event of the season, he pocketed £10,000 as winner of The Lookers Championship. His victory at Close House (incidentally, the same venue that witnessed Paul Dunne's maiden win in the British Masters) gave him momentum and an invite from Team Ireland Golf ensured a start at the Andalucía Costa del Sol Match Play 9.

"That was probably the biggest invite of the year," he reflects. "I just made the cut. I was in a playoff to get into the top 32 but I played lovely in the match play. That set up my whole year. That pretty much gave me enough money, from that event, to keep my card. I had a full season from then."
Having begun the year full of uncertainty, his runner-up finish in Spain meant that Moynihan could now map out a season. 
"My goal was to get any sort of schedule in my hand," Moynihan recalls as he retraces his steps. "To come from there to where I am now is a pretty nice feeling."
As of last Thursday afternoon, Moynihan is a member of The European Tour. In the final round of Qualifying School, he birdied the final hole to secure his playing rights next season. In terms of distance travelled, it's been a voyage to the moon and back.
"Once I had my schedule, I just went for it," he says. "I was much more relaxed on the course. The biggest difference from last year was that I was much more relaxed. Even at Q School, I had some starts lined up through my Challenge Tour ranking anyway so I was probably the most relaxed person there. The whole week I was feeling good."
Although the tension was palpable on the back nine at Lumine last week, at no stage did he feel daunted.
"It wasn't the most pressure I've felt on a golf course, not by a long way. I was nervous but I've felt worse!" he says and cites first tee nerves at the 2015 Walker Cup as his most testing experience.
Moynihan left the amateur ranks following that win at Lytham. These days, he plays a more patient game.
"I've just been enjoying my golf a lot more," he says. "Last year I was getting angry. This year I said: 'Just enjoy it. If I play well, great, and if I don't, don't worry about it.'"
His change of mindset is complemented by a more robust regimen.
"I wouldn't have been a big practicer," he freely admits, "but this year, I've just been more dedicated to it. I got a Trackman there about four months ago. That's helped me. It's not that I get bored on the range but having Trackman makes it easier to stay motivated in practice because it's competitive practice."
Working with Shane O'Grady has made him a better driver of the golf ball and, as if on a rising tide, the rest of his game has soared to new heights.
"I'm giving myself more opportunities because of my good driving," he surmises. "On each hole, I'm giving myself a chance. On Challenge Tour, your bad round has to be two or three under."
In short, he says: "I'm making more birdies."
By his own estimate he's averaging five birdies per round. And he knows where to seek further improvement: "If I can drop a bogey in each round..."
Perhaps he might yet emulate Paul Dunne, his former Ireland teammate, and claim a win on the main tour next season.
"The hardest part is getting there," he says. "If you get there you can see what Dunners got. I've played with Paul since I was 15 so when I see what he's been doing, and obviously, I've competed with him, I know there's no reason why I can't do what he's doing."
Moynihan will return to action before the year is out, most likely at the Joburg Open in December. This time last year his biggest concern was picking up entries. Now he has his pick of tournaments though he's still conscious of the role that Team Ireland plays in helping players to get their bearings in the professional game.
"The biggest thing is the starts that you get," he believes. "The bit of money is great to get you going but the starts are the biggest thing because if you have a good finish you get your card then. For the lads coming up, they'll be getting those starts as well. One good week can change your whole year."
And Moynihan is living proof of that.