World of Golf: Pádraig Harrington weighs in behind R&A’s nine-hole format

Pádraig Harrington has endorsed the R&A’s decision to embrace nine-hole golf as a “legitimate alternative” to the 18-hole format in today’s time-pressured world.
World of Golf: Pádraig Harrington weighs in behind R&A’s nine-hole format

Golf’s governing body for the game outside North America last week announced an inaugural amateur competition to be played on July 9 at Royal Troon, which will host the 145th Open Championship on the same course five days later.

The aim is to support nine-hole golf as “an ideal way to play golf in less time whilst still doing so competitively and for handicap purposes”.

R&A Working for Golf Ambassador and two-time Open champion Harrington said: “People who want to play golf are increasingly struggling to find the time to play and so positioning nine hole golf as a legitimate alternative makes a lot of sense.

“I’m really pleased to see The R&A taking the lead in this area. For regular amateur golfers to be able to play The Open venue in championship condition immediately before the best players in the world is a fantastic initiative and I’m sure this new competitive format will encourage more people to get out on the golf course and play nine-hole golf.”

The nine-hole championship is the result of an extensive survey by the R&A on pace of play and the subsequent Time for Golf conference in St Andrews last November which discussed the finding that 60% of the golfers surveyed expressed the view they would enjoy golf more if it took less time. This year’s event will have a 30-strong field comprising two players from events held at each of the 13 regional qualifying venues for The Open throughout Britain and Ireland. Host venues Royal Troon Golf Club and The Ladies’ Golf Club, Troon will each provide two players. The handicap event will be open to men, women, boys, and girls who are members of the clubs taking part. In 2017, the R&A said its new championship will be expanded to cover golf clubs in Great Britain and Ireland with players being given the opportunity to qualify at nine hole events held by The R&A’s affiliated national associations in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

Power joins impressive field at Cork Golf Club

Mark Power, the 15-year-old winner of the prestigious Peter McEvoy Trophy, is one of the big names in the field for the 72 hole Munster Open Stroke Play Championship at Cork Golf Club, next weekend.

Power, a son of three-times former Irish Men’s and Ladies Close champions Eddie and Eileen Rose (nee McDaid) shot rounds of 70, 68, 71, and 68 for a seven under par total of 277 over the Copt Heath course in the English midlands to follow in the footsteps of Ryder Cup stars Peter Baker, Lee Westwood, and Justin Rose and capture the coveted McEvoy trophy. Gavin Moynihan, the Walker Cup player from Malahide, was the only previous Irish winner of the event.

The Munster Stroke Play has taken the place of the Cork Scratch Cup in recent years and continues to attract a high-class entry featuring several of the best and lowest handicap golfers in the country.

For the second year running, Limerick’s Pat Murray, the 2009 winner, has the lowest handicap in the field of plus 3.7. Peter O’Keeffe (Douglas) will make his championship debut after regaining his amateur status, O’Keeffe is one of 12 entrants with a playing handicap of plus 2, with three golfers playing off plus 3. It will be interesting to see how many can play to those handicaps, especially if the weather cuts up unfavourably. The Championship has been dominated by Royal Dublin golfers for the past two years. Barry Anderson took the title in 2014 and Shaun Carter won last year and both will be back on this occasion. Niall Gorey has three Munster Stroke Play titles to his name. The host club are well represented by John Hickey and Gary O’Flaherty. Former Cork member and current Munster senior interprovincial Ian O’Rourke (Royal Dublin) is among the lowest handicappers in the field on plus 2.6. Andrew McCormack (Castletroy), winner of the Douglas Scratch Cup, is another to keep an eye on. 75 players face the starter on Saturday for the first two rounds with the leading 39 and ties going forward to the final 36 holes.

Ballykisteen quartet ready for Open Skills Challenge

A quartet of Tipperary girls will be heading to the K Club next month after Ballykisteen captured one of the top prizes at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Skills Challenge.

Munster champions Ballykisteen emerged alongside boys’ winners Enniscrone from Connacht after Sunday’s national final at the GUI National Golf Academy in Carton House.

Ballykisteen’s Kaelin O’Keefe (13), Chloe Ryan (13), Lauren Kelly (12), and Caitlin Shipman (10) had to overcome Naas in a play-off to secure victory in the girls’ section and book a trip to this year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Pro-Am.

“I’m so proud of them,” Ballykisteen team manager and club head professional Marion O’Riordan said. “I’m delighted for the girls. They have worked so hard for this.” Both Enniscrone and Ballykisteen will be treated to a grand day out at The K Club on May 18 when they will watch the Irish Open Pro-Am and enjoy a ‘meet and greet’ opportunity with a top player. Four-player teams from all four provinces, representing seven different clubs, were in contention for the top prize at the GUI National Academy. Each team member specialised in one of the four skills in the challenge: driving, iron play, chipping, and putting. Tony Conlon, 14, led the way for Enniscrone with a flawless display of driving and together with Conor Ruddy, 14, Cormac Feeney, 12, and Ódhrán Cloonan, 12, they amassed 340 points in an event organised by the Confederation of Golf in Ireland.

DUBAI DUTY FREE IRISH OPEN SKILLS CHALLENGE National Final – Girls Winners:

Ballykisteen (Kaelin O’Keefe, Lauren Kelly, Caitlin Shipman, Chloe Ryan); Regional Qualifiers: Connacht - Enniscrone (Corine Mulrooney, Vicky Conlon, Taragh O’Dowd, Caroline Dodd); Leinster - Naas (Ciara Dunne, Eva Lynch, Ellen Lawler, Sarah Dunne); Ulster - Holywood (Olivia McCrystal, Heidi McMillen, Katie Jones, Joy Simpson).

National Final – Boys’ Winners:

Enniscrone (Tony Conlon, Conor Ruddy, Cormac Feeney, Ódhrán Cloonan); Regional Qualifiers: Leinster - Newlands (Cian Dunne, Sean Lacey, Alex Raymond, Brian Elliott); Ulster - Bangor (Ewan Knox, Angus Christie, Rory Christie, Shea Dornan); Munster - Ballybunion (James O’Callaghan, Edmond Healy, Aidan O’Carroll, Ronan O’Neill).

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