Thursday, May 30, 2024

Purcell winning the mental battle as he rolls with the punches on the Challenge Tour – News – Irish Golf Desk

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Portmarnock’s Conor Purcell believes he’s winning the internal mental battle to get out of his own way and make the leap from the Challenge Tour to the DP World Tour.

The former Walker Cup star (26) has enjoyed a fast start to his third full season on the second-tier circuit and already sits inside the top 20 in the Road to Mallorca rankings who will earn automatic promotion to the big league in 2025.

It’s been an impressive start to the new campaign for the ambitious Malahide man, who dreams of following in the footsteps of his father, Joey, by making it on tour.

But he admits his biggest battle is that he’s far too hard on himself and has to work with his team and the Sport Ireland psychologist to bring out the best in himself.

“I would say I’ve probably made little improvements in parts of my game and the ball striking has been quite solid for the most part this year,” said Purcell, who kicks off the European swing in Spain in this week’s Challenge de España at  Real Club Sevilla Golf.  

“And mentally, I have made a shift in the right direction and I’m being a bit kinder to myself, knowing that bad stretches and bad holes are going to come.

“It’s just knowing that it’s a long race. A lot can happen over four days, so it’s about staying patient with myself, and I feel like my mental side has been quite strong.”

Purcell, who is thrilled to have picked up new sponsorship from Flogas and fleet management and mobility provider Mahony Fleet, admits he realised he needed help with his mental game after crashing to an opening 82 in last year’s Copenhagen Challenge.

“That was probably one of my lower points last year,” he confessed. “It was the first round, and my girlfriend and (Golf Ireland coach) Donal Scott were out watching me. I think I went out and shot 82, and Donal’s first observation was it was just incredible how hard I was on myself.  

“Even when I was hitting decent shots, I was beating myself up. So it’s kind of been in the back of my head since then. And I notice that on my good days, I tend to not really worry about the bad shots as much. That just comes from being kinder to myself and not understanding that everyone who has a good week still hits some bad shots and has some bad holes, so it’s all part of the week.”

He’s been working hard with Dr. Kate Kirby, the Head of Performance Psychology at the Sport Ireland Institute, and he reckons it’s making a difference.

“I have a good team around me, and thankfully, they’ve been able to help me steer me in the right direction,” he said. “So everyone’s kind of pulling in the right direction, which is a nice feeling.”

His big ambition is to win on the Challenge Tour this year and after racking up back-to-back top-six finishes in the UAE and making six of his first seven cuts, he’s 17th in the race for those 20 DP World Tour cards.

There are another 21 events remaining, however, and the trick now is to remain focused and avoid the temptation to get sidetracked looking at what the competition is doing.

He’s been working with former amateur star Noel Fox, now a top coach, on making small improvements that have made him a far more consistent player and knows he has to lock himself inside his own bubble on what is a brutally competitive Challenge Tour scene.

“I would say the biggest challenge is dealing with all the emotions that come with being a golfer,” added Purcell, whose sponsorship deals, including a €33,000 grant from the Golf Ireland Professional Scheme, have allowed him to take on a full-time caddie in Mayo man Jack O’Connell on a circuit where expenses can average close to €2,500 a week.

“It’s very individual, and you spend a lot of time on your own. And you can kind of go down these rabbit holes of chasing what someone else is trying to do or take more notice of other people.  

“I think staying within your own bubble is really important. Anytime I look at people who’ve done really well in their careers, it seems like they just really own what they own and try to improve what they have.  

“I think going searching is not really the best way of doing things in my opinion. And I think nowadays, it’s just it’s so easy to get lost with the media and all the noise that brings.  

“I think the best way to go is to dial it back down and really hone in on ourselves, almost being selfish in a way, and try to become the best version of ourselves.”

While Irish golf’s former amateur stars have struggled to establish themselves on the DP World Tour, Purcell sees Tom McKibbin as an inspiration and having made the cut in four of his last five DP World Tour starts, the Dubliner knows he has the game to compete.

He showed that in the Irish Open at The K Club last year and hopes to take advantage of the occasional DP World Tour start this season as the points also count towards the Challenge Tour rankings.

“It’s just realising that the game doesn’t change, no matter where you play,” he explained. “I feel like when I’m playing well, my game travels quite well in most places. So I just have to take some confidence from that and know that no matter what stage it is, I can hopefully perform.”

Performing on the Challenge Tour means making birdies galore and Purcell has proved he has the right stuff this season and can’t wait to notch his maiden win.

“It’s always been a goal of mine so I feel like I’m getting closer and learning from past experiences,” he said.

“Shooting 20-under in the UAE recently was a good confidence boost to know I can hang at that end of the leaderboard come late Sunday. I am just trying to do my best to qualify for the top 20 and get onto the DP World Tour as soon as possible.

“There’s not too many Irish out there right now but I’m just trying to do the best they can for myself, and I’m trying to get myself out there.  

“On the Challenge Tour, it means trying to get to 15 under every week. That’s the goal I set. It gets you in the mindset of making plenty of birdies and rolling with the punches as they come.”

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