Big cheque not enough to lure Euro stars

One of the richest tournaments on the European Tour schedule, the $5m (€3.7m) Dunhill Links, is on this week over three outstanding links courses on the east coast of Scotland — but just three members of the 2012 European Ryder Cup team are competing.

Perhaps even more disappointingly, there will be no sign either of Henrik Stenson, the impressive winner of the FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour on Sunday night.

One wonders what sponsors Alfred Dunhill feel about this lack of support and whether they are seriously reconsidering their generous backing of the European Tour dating back to 1985 when they launched the Dunhill Cup, an international tournament catering for teams of three and won by Ireland in 1988 and 1990.

It was replaced in 2001 by the Dunhill Links, a 72-hole pro-am, and has been played since at St Andrews and Carnoustie, two of golf’s greatest links, and Kingsbarns, another splendid seaside layout.

Pádraig Harrington was crowned champion in 2002 and ’06, followed by Michael Hoey in 2011. Harrington and JP McManus have also captured the team prize. And then there’s Rory

McIlroy, who made only his second professional appearance in the event in 2007 on the back of a sponsor’s invitation. He duly finished third and picked up €211, 321, which secured his card for the following year and sent him on his way to unimaginable riches.

But there is no sign of McIlroy this week with only Martin Kaymer, Peter Hanson and Paul Lawrie of the Medinah heroes teeing it up. Few would argue with the big guns when claiming the money available in the States means they must concentrate on the PGA Tour. Equally, their words ring hollow when they insist they will support their home tour when possible.

If that was the case — and bearing in mind this is a blank week in America — those players would be in Scotland. Instead, their absence may jeopardise the future of the professional game on this side of the Atlantic.

Harrington, Hoey, Darren Clarke, Shane Lowry, Paul McGinley, Damien McGrane, Peter Lawrie, Gareth Maybin and Simon Thornton present the Irish challenge.

Revamped Ballyneety back in business after three-year hiatus

A ‘minor miracle’ became reality over the weekend when Ballyneety Golf Club in Limerick reopened its doors for business.

The Des Smyth-Declan Branigan- designed course on the Kilmallock road, a few miles outside Limerick city, was founded in the early 90s by a group of businessmen confident that the area could support a venture they named “Limerick County Golf and Country Club.” The course opened in 1994 and things progressed nicely until economic crash. The project was liquidated by the directors and Limerick County closed, apparently for good, in 2010.

However, people like Liam Lawlor, Minie O’Brien and professional Donal McSweeney were adamant that the project could be resurrected and now a piece of land that was nothing more less than a wilderness for three years has been transformed to its former glory, while the clubhouse has undergone a major refurbishment.

“The voluntary efforts of so many of our members along with community enterprise has been absolutely amazing and is mainly responsible for what you see here today”, enthused Lawlor, a former Limerick County captain and now general manager.

Leyden was also a hero of Spanish Point

Spanish Point’s Evan Talty claimed the club had “never won anything of note” as he celebrated a famous victory in the Pierce Purcell Shield at Royal Tara. But in the euphoria, he overlooked the achievements of their most famous member, PJ (Paddy) Leyden, who completed a hat-trick of South of Ireland Championship wins at Lahinch from 1995 to 1997. Paddy was a great friend of the late President Dr Paddy Hillery, whose home overlooked the nine- hole links.

Phelan joins team-mates in hunt for card

Having done superbly to make the cut at the KLM Dutch Open before securing a share of 67th place and €3,457, Kevin Phelan(pictured), the 23-year-old Irish American from Waterford Castle, takes his next big step towards establishing himself in professional golf when contesting this week’s European Tour stage one qualifier at the Ribagolfe club in Lisbon. Phelan is joined in the field by Irish amateur team-mates Nicky Grant and Reeve Whitson.

Seven Irish golfers — Niall Kearney, Ruaidhri McGee , Colm Moriarty, Dermot McElroy, Alan Dunbar, Damian Mooney and David Warluk — are already through to the second qualifying stage to be contested over four Spanish courses.

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