Irish amateurs won’t get Open opportunity

Shane Lowry is saddened there will be no repeat fairytale for an amateur in next month’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

But the GUI is still hopeful that a top amateur or two will be given the chance to match Lowry’s incredible 2009 win at Baltray in future years, providing there is no clash with the European Amateur Team Championships.

It emerged yesterday that the GUI had the option of accepting Irish Open invitations this year but said no as our top six Irish amateurs will be travelling to Diamond Country Club in Austria for the European Amateur Team Championships.

“What can I say about that,” Lowry said when asked about the first Irish Open in living memory without an Irish amateur in the field.

“If it hadn’t been for the Irish Open, God knows where I’d be now. But look, the tournament is very big now and to take spots away from pros, I think that’s the way the Tour are looking at it.”

The European Tour said last week that no amateurs would play this year because the field for the €7m event has strict entry criteria and European Tour members had priority.

However, the GUI’s CEO Pat Finn revealed that it mutually agreed with the Tour not to take up invitations this year but that in the event of a date change to either the Irish Open or the European Team Championships, they’d welcome the opportunity to send a player of Lowry’s ability in the future.

“In the past we had four spots, last year there were three spots and it was clear that there was going to be pressure on those three spots,” Finn said.

“The conversation wasn’t one of ‘we have no spots for amateurs’. When I discussed the problem of the date with them, I explained that if the GUI sent an amateur or two or three, it wouldn’t be one our top six players.

“So we mutually agreed that an invitation wouldn’t be extended to the GUI this year.

“We were concerned about setting a precedent so we explained that in future, if there wasn’t a date clash and we had anyone as good as Shane when he won the Irish Open, or of similar stature, that kind of player has to be given an opportunity.”

The European Amateur Team Championship is the key goal for the GUI but Finn added that should the Irish Open clash, the European Tour has said it will consider requests from the GUI to extend invitations to top Irish amateurs to compete in other European Tour events.

As for Lowry and Erin Hills, the Clara man said he’s more in favour of tough US Open setups and is looking forward to traditional venues such as Shinnecock Hills next year, Pebble Beach in 2019 and Winged Foot in 2020.

“It’s only once a year we have to play it,” he said after reading the social media criticism of the USGA following last week’s birdie-fest at Erin Hills.

“Every other week of the year is an absolute shootout so why not play the US Open as hard as you can and the best golfer at the end is going to win.

“I know I played well last year but when I got to Oakmont I was licking my chops thinking, ’This is the kind of golf I like.’

“I can’t say when I got here this week I was really looking forward to it. I thought someone can shoot seven-under out there and obviously, we saw someone shoot nine-under yesterday.

“It is what it is. It is the golf course we were given, and I just didn’t do as well as I would have liked.”

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