The centenary Connolly’s Audi West of Ireland Amateur Open Championship is almost upon us as some of the country’s best amateur golfers head west to Rosses Point as they descend on Co. Sligo Golf Club.
Anticipation has reached fever pitch around Sligo with a stellar field pencilled in to compete with a sprinkling of talent from the UK and Europe set to add to what is already a special occasion.
General Manager at Co. Sligo Golf Club, David O’Donovan is busy adding some finishing touches to both the course and the clubhouse and he can’t wait for the first tee shot to be struck in the pre-qualifier on Wednesday morning.
“The pre-qualifier on Wednesday we will have 90 players teeing it up with at least six places on offer. It looks like a very good field and the forecast is looking good which will make for an exciting week of golf.
“We’re still a few days away and the lads are out getting the golf course ready and a few finishing touches,” said O’Donovan whose course staff have put in trojan work throughout the winter in preparation for the championship with machinery adjacent to the 8th green audible.
“On the golf course side, we would be preparing throughout the winter. We wanted to revet 12 of our greenside bunkers and grass some of our paths. We will be refilling the bunkers with sand in the lead up to the Championship because of the revetting so we will top them up with sand. We top dressed our fairways and we will do so again this week, we top dressed our greens and will do them again.
“The height of cuts on the greens will gradually come down as the week approaches. We have them at 5.4mm in the winter and we will reduce that and cut and roll this weekend. On the Monday, Tuesday we will cut everything.”
O’Donovan is relishing his 14th West of Ireland as GM of Co. Sligo and he expects a festival of golf over Easter weekend with the West running in tandem with the Masters at Augusta National.
Hopefully the local Rosses Point talent in the field get the support on the golf course and the Irish in Augusta, off it.
“The West of Ireland traditionally kicks off the season for everybody here. There’s always great local interest in it. The members here are great followers of golf no matter who is in the final stages of the championship,” O’Donovan explained. “They’ll support the golf and watch it which is key for the tournament. It’s harder to watch strokeplay but when the matchplay comes around on Monday morning you’ll see more locals out watching and golf fanatics.
“They are great watchers of golf. Members and visitors traditionally come here for the week and this is their holiday, they take the week off from work, play our nine-hole course and watch the golf and enjoy the festivities that go with the week, with the Masters on that weekend it will draw people into the clubhouse to watch the golf and go onto the first tee to watch the West for a few holes and come back inside for a bite to eat and a beer and watch the Masters. So it’s great they can do both!”
O’Donovan is used to the tricks of the trade at this stage and he will make sure the renovations to the clubhouse are completed on time before the championship begins.
However, thoughts of any down time post championship are misinformed, with the West set to draw back the curtain on another hectic season of golf in Co. Sligo Golf Club. A full time sheet is already expected on the Wednesday after the championship.
“I sit on the championship committee, generally my role is making sure everything in the club runs smoothly whether that be food and beverage. Susie does a great job with that so we have a job on to make sure we have enough food and drinks for the week! Colin does a great job in the shop too!
“The tournament itself is run by Golf Ireland I spend time with our sponsors, Connolly’s Audi, so I will spend time with the owners. They will have cars on display here with people coming out to look at the cars. A few of the sales guys will bring people on test drives. They get something from the week, they get exposure and we get the support from them which is great to see.
“This is my 14th West as manager here so I’m used to it after a while! You are prepared for anything that may come, we are ready to go. This week we are adding the final touches to the clubhouse. We put in a new shower area this winter which is on schedule to be finished in time, we have painted some of the inside of the clubhouse, we have new pins, flags and markers for the season which all falls into place from Friday onwards.
“We are making sure the place is clean and tidy and that the golf course is presented to the best capability. It’s a showcase and it’s great to have the West of Ireland here and with the 100th it’s even better.
“For us it doesn’t stop after the West, we have 120 people on the timesheet the day after it finishes so it kicks off straight away again for us, the season is up and running and away we go from there.”
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