Aideen Walsh is relishing the prospect of teeing it up in a home KPMG Women’s Irish Open when the tournament returns to the Ladies European Tour rota in Dromoland Castle from September 22-25.
Walsh, who is a member of Dromoland, was invited to take up one of the amateur spots in the event and she is hopeful that a big crowd will turn out to support her.
“Yeah it’s really exciting, it’s an added bonus that it’s on in Dromoland, a course I remember,” said Walsh. “Everyone is really excited and it’s hard to believe it’s only two weeks away so the count down is on.
“Even having it in Co. Clare is really special. A lot of people have already told me they’ll come out and watch so hopefully there’ll be a lot of people that have helped me along the way out supporting me.
“I’ll try and enjoy it but I will set goals for myself. I’ll try not think about the expectations too much because I have learned that equals disaster for me! But I will have certain goals. I’m not going there to make up the numbers I want to make the cut and do my best and get my best result at the tournament.
“I play the course all the time so there might be a little bit of an advantage but I will still approach it the same as any tournament, go out and do the practice round and take my notes but I’m an amateur and they’re professionals so they have an advantage on me with that,” added the primary school teacher who subs for three days a week in Ennis to balance work and golf.
The Lahinch native won’t be the only star attraction in Dromoland in two weeks with Leona Maguire set to headline the event and play in her first Irish Open since the 2012 edition in Killeen Castle when she was just a budding young amateur.
“All of us look up to Leona and what she has been doing,” said Walsh. “The Irish Girls team is quite young so it’s so important for them to see Leona go on and do what she’s doing I think in a few years we will see the impact of that.
“It was huge to get her. There was a buzz about the tournament but when she was announced there was another buzz. She will bring a big crowd, she’s our best female golfer, I look up to her, the kids look up to her. It would be great to see her at the top at the weekend.”
This won’t be Walsh’s first taste of the professional ranks having appeared in the ISPS Handa World Invitational at Galgorm Castle in 2021 – after winning the Ulster Strokeplay Championship.
The Clare native was bullish about the standard of elite amateurs in comparison to the professionals while also stating the women’s game is on par with their male counterparts and feels equal pay is a just reward.
“The ISPS is really cool because the winner of the men and women get the same pay. We had a tournament last week and the men who came couldn’t believe the standard of the women’s game. Women’s golf is in a good place and it’s only right that we get the same pay. We are as good as the men.
“I played the ISPS and I got to see the difference score wise. Ball striking wise there isn’t that much difference between elite amateur and professional. The professionals can make a par from anywhere so that shows the mental toughness that they have from years on tour and successful amateur careers.
“When you get to the top of the amateur game you have proven you have a high standard and you need to take the next step. Skills wise there isn’t much of a difference but it’s that experience and mental toughness.”
Walsh, who is also a member of Lahinch and plays all of her amateur golf representing Lahinch Golf Club, has enjoyed a good season. She returned to Portrush to successfully defend her Ulster Strokeplay title – an event where the men and women compete on the same course at the same time.
She also played an integral role in helping Lahinch win their third AIG Women’s Senior Cup in four years, beating Clodagh Coughlan of Douglas 3&1 in the final last weekend in Tramore and she believes this current crop of players can continue to dominate at All-Ireland level.
“It was great we have done it three in four years now,” Walsh says. “It’s funny, we were sitting down after it on Sunday and we have such a special group in Lahinch, a really good panel of players and anything is possible.
“We will keep going, we obviously enjoyed the win and our team is really good and there’s an opportunity to really make history in the club.
“To win the All-Ireland the first time was special and to do it again, then lose in the final last year and do it again this year we are going to push on now and see can we keep going.”