The latest phase in the 125th-anniversary celebrations at Lahinch Golf Club gets underway this morning with the first qualifying round in the Pierse Motors South of Ireland Championship and continues until Monday when many past champions will be honoured in a special competition followed by a gala dinner.
Among the former winners set to tee it up is victorious Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley.
The 1991 South champion plays in this week’s British Seniors Open at Royal Porthcawl and will make his way to Lahinch on Monday.
Michael Guerin (Killarney), who enjoyed a hat-trick of successes from 1961 to ’63, will be there along with Rupert de Lacy Staunton (Castlerea, 1965 and ’72), Mark Gannon (Co Louth, ’73), David Long (Shandon Park, ’74), Vincent Nevin (Limerick, ’76, ’78), Paraic O’Rourke (Kilkenny, ‘79, ’81, ’85), Adrian Morrow (Portmarnock, ’83 and ‘96), John McHenry (Douglas, ’86), Barry Reddan (Co Louth, ’87), Mark Gannon (Co Louth, ’88), Peter Sheehan (Castletroy, ‘93), Jody Fanagan (Milltown, ’95), Mark Campbell (UCD, ’99), Justin Kehoe (Birr, 2001), Mervyn Owens (Mallow, ‘03), Cian McNamara (Limerick, 04), Simon Ward (’06 and ’13), Darren Crowe (‘07, Dunmurry), Robert Cannon (’09, Laytown & Bettystown) and several others.
With Pádraig Slattery, a son of Brud, a legendary figure at the West Clare club and himself a distinguished golfing personality, installed as captain and a high-class updated history published and a spectacular sculpture of a goat —the club’s crest — recently unveiled by Captains Slattery and Jacqueline Joyce, members and visitors are relishing the week ahead.
In the meantime, the latest version of the country’s oldest provincial championship will take centre stage with the 2017 edition having attracted a magnificent field, lacking only Paul McBride of the six-man Irish team that contested the recent European Championship in Norway.
McBride has a good excuse for missing Lahinch having received an invitation to this week’s European Tour’s Porsche European Open in Hamburg.
In McBride’s absence, most attention will be focused on his Irish team-mates Robin Dawson, Stuart Grehan, Colm Campbell, John Ross Galbraith, and Conor O’Rourke.
However, other members of the Irish side that completed a hat-trick of victories in last year’s Home International Championship, South holder Conor Purcell, Tiarnan McLarnan, Alex Gleeson, Colin Fairweather, along with Rowan Lester, the recent winner of the North of Ireland Championship, are also in the field.
Even then, there are many others capable of claiming the coveted title. Among them is the 17-year-old Mark Power, the Irish Boys champion for the past two years, not to mention a whole host of recent past South winners and young and not so young golfers with their sights set on the title and all the history that goes with it.
Power’s father Eddie, a three-time former Irish Close champion, makes his 35th appearance while also teeing it up is Tyrone Clarke whose father Darren claimed the title in 1990.
The Championship begins with the first of two 18-hole qualifying rounds with the leading 64 going through to the match-play rounds on Friday with the final on Sunday afternoon. The cut came last year on 152 with Jake Whelan (Newlands) leading the way on 138.
Slow play has been a thorny issue in amateur golf for many years and in an attempt to address the problem, the championship committee has issued pace of play guidelines as to the length of time a group of three should take to play each hole and to complete 18 holes.
They are allowing 18-19 minutes for each of the four par fives and 11-12 minutes for the four par threes. Fourteen minutes are advised for lengthy par fours such as the 10th with full rounds to be finished in four hours and 15 minutes.
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