America On The Horizon For Carrigaline’s Sam Hogan - After Kerry Boys Open Win
Updated: Sep 23, 2021
Writes Ciaran Dineen
It has been an extraordinary few weeks for Carrigaline’s Sam Hogan. The Coláiste Muire, Crosshaven student, now entering his Leaving Cert year, recently won the biggest event of his golfing career to date, with a monumental victory in the prestigious Kerry Boys Open. Although studying will now be on in his mind, Sam’s eyes are firmly fixed on a potential scholarship to the United States, in search of golf’s equivalent to the ‘American Dream’.
Sam, 17, never really had an option on whether to take up the sport, and it was a question of when and not if, given his father Brian’s passion for the game and the fact that his older brother, Josh was also an avid enthusiast. First picking up a club at the age of 8, Sam got his first taste of golf while playing with his brother down in Bantry during the summer. After leaving to join Fota Island Golf Club, Sam excelled under their renowned junior coaching system, and over the years has seen his handicap fall and his game improve.
After cutting his teeth in the national men’s Bruen Competition at a young age, Sam has continued to progress over the past 18 months, going from a very respectable handicap of 4, now down to +1 at time of writing. At this stage, he is a hardened veteran of Match Play events, and the experience he gained from playing against players potentially years older than him has clearly stood to him. His victory last month on the Cashen Course at Ballybunion is no mean feat, not only because the standard of youth golf is now at an unprecedented level, but because the format of the event leaves little margin for error, and the weather is always a very unpredictable variable.
“I was going down to win it”, Sam, tells The Carrigdhoun Newspaper, a few weeks after the result had settled in. “It’s funny because I was talking to my Juvenile coach before I went down and he was telling me that when he played it, he just went for a few cans on the beach but that wasn’t me at all. I didn’t think I was going to win, but I was certainly going there to try”, he adds.
The reality is, it’s simply not possible to combine the socialising with competitive golf, and Sam knew what his priority was. Heading down with five fellow juveniles from Fota was added motivation, and the potential to earn the bragging rights was an additional prize in itself.
It wasn’t the best of starts however for the 17 year-old, who shot an opening round of 80, leaving him on 8 over par and in 24th place. Although he was inside the cut-line to make the final 32, Sam did not help his cause the following day in his second round, after a front 9 score of 43 (6 over), his chances of qualifying were diminishing radically. Call it youthful exuberance or not feeling the pressure, but this appeared to be water off a duck’s back for Sam, who completely turned his form around and just in the nick of time. Shooting four birdies in the final eight holes saw him close out the round with a five over total, taking him to +13 for the competition.
That was more than enough for Sam to make it inside the 32 cut, qualifying inside the top 10 and moving into the Matchplay knockout phase. During his fightback on the second day, the young golfer sensed his form turning around and he would be a match for anyone if he could progress. “I was thinking as I was playing the back 9 that if I can get to the matchplay I would be able to take down anyone”, Sam says with pure confidence and determination looking back. “I really do think the Bruen helped me in the matchplay situation, because I had qualified with Fota to the Munster Area Final, it really stood to me a lot.”
The internal competition with the rest of his Fota clubmates was also a massive factor in the equation. Amazingly all five of the players from the club qualified for the matchplay event, which consisted of rounds in both the morning and afternoon, requiring a lot of both mental and physical resilience. “I honestly don’t think I would have won without the fact that the other Fota lads were there, particularly Ben O’Connell who reached the plate final and we were both staying together, it was like a constant push”, Sam describes.
After successive wins over Evan O’Leary, Jack Murphy and Mark Gazi, Sam had reached the final hurdle, and was just one step away from the holy grail. There was no stopping the Carrigaline man, who beat his opponent, Paraic McGrath on the 17th green to claim victory in what was the 49th staging of the competition. An open-top car subsequently paraded through estates and driveways as the extended family members were able to celebrate the occasion.
Not resting on his achievements, Sam then made the trip up north to take part in the Ulster Boys Open a week later, but in classic golf fashion, an opening hole which culminated in a triple bogey quickly brought Sam back down to earth. However, once again the poor start didn’t affect the 17 year-old’s focus, and the Fota golfer battled back to put in some exceptional rounds that saw him finish out the tournament strongly.
It’s all about keeping the momentum going for Sam, who is now targeting the Munster Boys Open in October, as well as putting his hand up for selection in the Inter-Pros. All going well with his studies, the Coláiste Muire student is confident that a potential scholarship to America is on the horizon, and he could follow in the footsteps of Kinsale’s John Murphy, who recently turned professional having spent four years in Louisiana. Sam has already had some preliminary contact with a golfing agent, who scouts for players across Ireland to see if they can make the grade across the water.
For now though what’s most important is that Sam acknowledges the fact that he can’t put all his eggs in one basket, and is focusing on his Leaving Cert while using golf as a form of escapism. However, we may be so bold to predict that whatever happens in the near future, Sam is riding the crest of a wave as things stand, and even if he briefly gets knocked off, do not be surprised if we see his name at the top of many a leaderboard in the years to come.
Best wishes to Sam in both his sporting and academic season ahead!