Rathmore’s Alan Dunbar leads a strong Irish contingent looking to score a home victory against a stacked international field at Carton House this week for the International European Amateur Championship.
One of amateur golf’s premier strokeplay tournaments touches down in Ireland for the first time since its 1986 debut with Austria’s Manuel Trappel defending his title over four rounds, starting today on Carton’s Montgomerie Course.
Former Irish Amateur Open champion Dunbar, though, is having a season to remember having won the British Amateur Championship at Troon in June.
That victory earned him a spot in the British Open at Royal Lytham last month. The man he beat in Troon, Matthias Schwab, will be at Carton, as will last year’s runner-up Steven Brown of England, whom Trappel defeated in a three-hole play-off at Halmstads in Sweden.
Dunbar spearheads a 17-strong home contingent, which includes Brabazon Trophy runner-up Kevin Phelan, Irish Close and East of Ireland champion Chris Selfridge, and West of Ireland champion Harry Diamond.
Also in the field are 2011 East of Ireland champion Richard O’Donovan, Paul Dunne, James Fox, Niall Gorey, Jack Hume, Gary Hurley, Aaron Kearney, Eddie McCormack, Gary McDermott, Dermot McElroy, Rory McNamara and Reeve Whitson.
Dunbar teed off at 8am this morning in the same group as Dutch golfer Daan Huizing, the world amateur number three and highest ranked player in the field, as well as Germany’s world numer 11 Marcel Schneider, the Australian Amateur champion.
One golfer with the experience of beating Huizing is Rhys Pugh of Wales who saw off the Dutchman’s challenge to win the 2011 Irish Amateur Open at Royal Dublin, a victory that helped him take his place alongside Dunbar in the victorious Walker Cup side of that year at Royal Aberdeen.
There will be Scottish visitors to Carton House with revenge in mind as Paul Ferrier seeks to make amends for his Amateur Championship semi-final defeat to Dunbar while Trappel denied his compatriot Jack McDonald.
The depth in the 144-man field is further exemplified by the presence of Belgian Thomas Pieters, the current US collegiate NCAA champion, the world number eight, and Schneider’s compatriot Moritz Lampert, this year’s Portuguese Amateur champion.
The French will be looking to Paul Barjon for a winner on Saturday evening after seeing him win the Scottish Stroke Play and Italian Amateur titles. Aside from Huizing, the Netherlands has high hopes for Robin Kind, who won the individual category at the European Nations Cup and finished runner-up at the 2012 Irish Amateur Open.
In addition to 2011 runner-up Brown, England also has a strong presence on this inland links-style course near Maynooth as the country seeks a first European Amateur champion since Matthew Richardson in 2004 with Ben Taylor and Garrick Porteous, Spanish Amateur champion Jack Hiluta and recently-crowned Welsh Stroke Play champion Craig Hinton.
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