Irish Opens and dates. A debate unlike any other.
Leona Maguire has called for the KPMG Women’s Irish Open to be switched to a summer date in order to attract a higher quality field next year and beyond.
Maguire was speaking after her final round 68 saw her come up one shot shy of the playoff which was won by Klara Spilkova at Dromoland Castle as the Women’s Irish Open made its return to the Ladies European Tour after a ten-year hiatus.
The event was rather retrofitted into the schedule in typically Irish last minute fashion and Maguire lined out several factors as to why a planned summer date around the Evian Championship and AIG Women’s Open would enhance the event. Mainly pencilling in some LPGA Tour players and Ireland’s elite amateurs (Lauren Walsh, Beth Coulter, Sara Byrne, Aine Donegan, Anna Foster, Annabel Wilson etc) who missed out last week due to college commitments in the US.
“There are a number of factors – I think we were blessed with the weather this week which you can’t plan for,” the Cavan native explained. “I think the bigger field, if it’s in a summer date we would get a few more LPGA Tour players like we did before when it was in Killeen Castle if it’s on that European stretch, potentially around Evian dates or British Open dates, ideally.
“Also that the girls in college are home. A lot of them missed out this week which was a shame. Some of the younger girls got to play which was a great experience for them but there are a few of the college girls who haven’t played in a pro event and it would be a great experience for them so it’s a number of different factors. It’s in everybody’s best interests that it’s a slightly better date but you can’t fault this week it has been a tremendous success,” added Maguire who was the highest ranked player in the field at 18 with Linn Grant second at 44th.
It seems that after a decade’s absence from the schedule, the Irish Open is here to stay and will only get better with each edition. Maguire and her fellow players lauded Dromoland Castle as a venue and felt the 24,000 strong galleries all week brought a major championship feel to the event with more sure to pile through the gates if there was a summer date.
“Everybody has been pleasantly surprised. A lot of girls said it has felt like a major this week, by far the biggest crowds they have seen this is not normal for an LET event it’s been incredibly well supported.
“The crowds were huge. Really started to gather on the back nine again, 10,000 through the gates which is a lot for an Irish Open and for it to be the first one in ten years and the fact it was put together quite last minute as well so hopefully all the people that were here this week come back again next year and were happy with what they saw and a few more come next year.”
With the tournament set to return to Dromoland Castle next year the 27-year-old will have another opportunity to become Ireland’s maiden Women’s Irish Open champion. If she is to do that however, she will need to learn the lessons of the first five holes which cost her so dearly.
The LPGA Tour winner played the opening five holes in a collective eight-over-par – including four successive bogeys from 2-5 in Friday’s 75 which was her back nine leaving her ten off the pace at the halfway stage.
“They are probably the hardest holes on the course. Never got the second shot into the first, second is a tough drive, three was OK. Four is just a long hole and they moved the tee back today for some reason not sure why they did that and five is a tricky driving hole where the tee is because you can’t carry those bunkers and the fairway kicks left and it’s a tricky green so it’s just a tricky start. Ideally you want to be level par through them and I didn’t do that.”