South of Ireland Amateur Open still struggling to attract leading contenders

Lahinch Golf Club and the Munster Branch do fantastic work for Irish golf but while they are grateful to the GUI for rescheduling the Interpros and Irish Close to make it easier for our top players to head to Clare for next month’s South of Ireland Amateur Open, the measures don’t appear to have worked.

South of Ireland Amateur Open still struggling to attract leading contenders

On paper, it’s the last major opportunity for our leading amateurs to impress selectors before the Home Internationals are held at Royal Portrush in August.

But the reality is it’s likely that many of our top internationals will be taking the week off again this year with current Irish Open Strokeplay and Irish Close champions, Gavin Moynihan and John Ross Galbraith respectively, certain to miss after another hectic spell.

With a 36-hole strokeplay qualifier introduced in place of the traditional 100% matchplay format, it was hoped that more elite players would take part, especially with the Interprovincial Matches being brought forward to next week and the Irish Close moving into August.

Of the top Irish squad players, only East of Ireland champion Stuart Grehan and senior squad members Robin Dawson and Richard Bridges have entered, though Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell is seriously considering it.

If Campbell wins the North of Ireland the previous week, he too will be out of the running for the popular July 22-26 event — the oldest of the four provincial championships.

The Island’s Kevin Le Blanc will be on holiday while others planning to tee it up in the North of Ireland Open Challenge at Galgorm Castle in early August are concerned about playing so much golf in such a short space of time. Dermot McElroy also says he needs a break before Royal Portrush.

The South’s format has been changed this year but while a midweek start and a Sunday finish has been welcomed by some, others believe it works against the 9-5 amateur golfer. The leading 64 competitors after two rounds of strokeplay on Wednesday and Thursday July 22-23 will face off in matchplay combat on Friday, Saturday and the semi-finals and final scheduled for Sunday July 26.

There’s something special about Lahinch in late July but one has to wonder if making the South the season closer, perhaps in late September, would not be a better bet than battling for attention in the middle of the very busy spell.

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