Irish pair play their Ryder Cup at Gleneagles

The two-year wait to earn a ticket to Gleneagles will finally come to an end today for some of the world’s best golfers, just as an Irish club pro and his six-handicapper team-mate tee off at the Scottish resort in search of silverware.

Irish pair play their Ryder Cup at Gleneagles

As Graeme McDowell celebrates securing the ninth and final automatic Ryder Cup team place, a half-dozen or so European Tour colleagues will today hang on captain Paul McGinley’s every word as he names his three wild card picks to face the USA later this month. American counterpart Tom Watson later adds his captain’s selections to the mix to round out the teams for the biennial showdown to be played over the PGA Centenary Course from September 26-28.

And while they command the attention of the golfing world, East Cork’s PGA professional Dan MacFarlane and amateur Eric Fleming will get their bid for the £43,600 (€55,000) Lombard Trophy final first prize under way over the Auchterarder club’s King’s Course.

The two-day PGA event is the culmination of Europe’s largest pro-am competition and will mark MacFarlane’s first appearance in the final since the mid-1990s, when he finished eight in Portugal’s San Lorenzo.

“We’re going to have to go for it after waiting this long to qualify again,” MacFarlane said. “This is a great tournament and it has been far too long since I reached the final — just getting the amateurs involved creates a special environment and one that I enjoy being a part of.

“I’m sure with Eric we stand every chance of doing well. He’s a very solid golfer and he just needs to go there, enjoy it and we’ll see what we can do.”

Fleming, 29 and a golfer for just four years, would have been a small boy when MacFarlane last graced the final but the pair have battled it through to the last 16 in a competition that attracted more than 700 clubs, qualifying to represent Ireland following a play-off win in the regional final at the K Club back in June.

The prospect of playing in a first national final, never mind at Gleneagles, has understandably given Fleming plenty to think about in the weeks since the pair booked their place.

“I can’t wait to play at Gleneagles,” Fleming said. “Although I have to admit I am feeling a little bit nervous. Obviously there’ll be a bit of pressure, and a lot of that will come from the fact that I don’t want to let Don down.

“He’s a really good golfer and a nice fella, and I want to make sure we have the best possible chance of winning. I do feel confident though – I don’t see why we can’t win, after all we won the other one didn’t we?”

Irish ready to take on the world

Good luck to Ireland’s Espirito Santo Trophy team, as they kick off the World Amateur Team Championships in Japan tomorrow.

The Heath’s Mary Doyle, Skerries’ Maria Dunne and Paula Grant of Lisburn will fly the flag for the ILGU in Karuizawa for the next four days in this 72-hole strokeplay event, with the two lowest scores from each round constituting the team score for the round.

The Dave Kearney-managed trio, plus team reserve, Royal County Down Ladies star Olivia Mehaffey, completed preparations with a practice round yesterday but they and 49 other nations will have their work cut out to prevent South Korea from completing a hat-trick of victories, the tournament specialists having won the trophy in 2010 and 2012.

Doyle, Dunne, Grant and Mehaffey will form half of an eight-woman Ireland team for the women’s Home Internationals at Aberdovey GC in Wales from September 17-19, while Doyle and Mehaffey will be joined by Lurgan’s Annabel Wilson at the end of the month, September 26-October 1, when the ILGU sends a team to the U18 World Junior Girls Championship in Ontario, Canada.

Kelly and Dignam share spoils in Naas Pro-Am

John Kelly shared the honours with John Dignam at the Naas Pro-Am as the PGA professionals each carded one under par rounds of 70.

Reigning PGA order of merit champion Kelly, who also won the tournament in 2012, got off to a terrible start, dropping shots on his first three holes, having started at the 16th in a shotgun start. The St Margaret’s Golf and Country Club pro then saw his birdie at the first cancelled out with a bogey at the third but Kelly saved the best for last and he closed strongly, picking up birdies at the ninth and 13th before signing off with an eagle three at the 15th.

By contrast, Slade Valley’s Dignam got his round under way at the 14th and was two under after nine holes, adding another birdie at the sixth. A bogey at eight followed by a double at the par-four ninth brought him back to even par before a closing birdie three at the 11th put him into a tie with Kelly. Headfort’s Brendan McGovern was third following a 72.

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