Browne thrilled with late Irish Open call-up

STEPHEN BROWNE became the 21st Irishman in the Nissan Irish Open field after a late call up last night.

Steve Webster, winner of the Italian Open, withdrew because of blistered feet and Browne, the first reserve, was thrilled with his elevation.

The 31-year-old Dubliner won his card at the Tour School last November but has struggled since, losing nine places in a recent re-ranking. He now has a great opportunity to battle his way back up the order of merit having played the course more than any of the other 155 players. He paid several visits to Carton through the winter and also practices here frequently.

Regular tour players Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley, Graeme McDowell, Peter Lawrie, Gary Murphy and Philip Walton are here along with fourteen others, eight from the Irish PGA Region order of merit - Challenge Tour money list leader David Higgins of Waterville; Damian Mooney, Conor Mallon, Jimmy Bolger, Leslie Walker, John Dwyer, Simon Thornton and Brendan McGovern.

The Irish invitees are Mark Murphy from Waterville but more recently of the USA, and Challenge Tour player Colm Moriarty. The number is completed by amateurs Rory McIlroy, Conor Doran and Seamus Power.

Meanwhile, Patrick Merrigan, the golf course architect responsible for numerous courses, was in Carton yesterday to announce his joint design project with Darren Clarke at Castle Dargan, Co Sligo.

The ambitious development incorporates a luxury hotel and high quality housing and could be open by the end of next year. Whereas Merrigan is a veteran of such projects, Clarke is currently working on a total of four in Ireland and South Africa and has several others in the pipeline.

Clarke declared his trademarks last night as: "a very exciting finish with short holes towards the end and a par five to finish to give opportunities coming down the stretch. I try to make them playable for every standard of golfer, for people just starting the game to people like ourselves and make it interesting and fun for them."

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