Fota opportunity knocks for Tour hopefuls

Having withstood the worst the wet weather can throw at it, Fota Island’s Deerpark course welcomes the return of the PGA EuroPro Tour today for the second Audi Cork Irish Masters.

The Deerpark, host to the Irish Open in 2001 and 2002, takes over from last year’s championship layout on The Belvelly. Tournament officials are confident this week’s downpours will not mar the 54-hole, three-day tournament.

A field of 118 golfers with aspirations of following the likes of EuroPro Tour graduates Louis Oosthuizen and Ross Fisher by graduating from European golf’s third tier to the big time, will tackle the par 71, 6927-yard course with Irish golfers to the fore. Waterville’s David Higgins, who tied for 10th in the European Tour’s flagship BMW PGA Championship in May, leads the Irish PGA’s Order of Merit and heads a contingent of top-20 players from the standings including Ballinasloe’s Mark Staunton, Team Ireland/Limerick’s Cian McNamara, Ballyliffin’s Damian Mooney, Mallow Golf Range’s Michael Collins, Muskerry’s Peter O’Keeffe and Killarney’s Daniel Sugrue. Also vying with defending champion Paul Reed for the £10,000 (€12,475) top prize will be Portstewart’s former Walker Cup hero Paul Cutler, Muskerry’s Asian Tour member Niall Turner and Fota duo Tommy O’Flynn and amateur Colm O’Sullivan. Entry on all three days is free of charge.

* Sheena McElroy made a blistering start at Bunclody yesterday to her bid to win a third consecutive Irish senior women’s title. The Grange veteran had a first round bye and wasted no time disposing of Killarney’s Mary Geaney 6&5.

In the third round this morning she will face Bundoran’s Eileen MacMullen who yesterday went to the home green to get past Marilyn Henderson of Royal Belfast.

Pat Doran, last year’s British seniors championship runner-up fired a warning to McElroy that she will be waiting in the wings should the reigning champion slip up as she eased past Catherine Kavanagh 3&2.

Strabane’s Helen Jones romped into the last 16 beating Marie Igoe by 7&6.

Former British seniors champion Valerie Hassett of Ennis went down in round two to Niamh Giblin who got home 3&2.

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