18 strokes covered the field by the end of play on day one at the Connolly’s Audi West of Ireland Championship at County Sligo Golf Club, with a shade under half the field shooting +8 or higher.
Despite playing under 7,000 yards, strong winds – stronger than forecast – swept in from the south-east, making scoring conditions extremely tricky and in response, a slightly easier setup awaits the players on day two.
“The course setup at the West is always a collaboration between the club and Golf Ireland,” explained Golf Ireland Director of Championships Mark Wehrly, “it’s an equal partnership really. We’ve two members of the championship committee, one of whom is an ex-international and former West of Ireland semi-finalist and between them they determine the course setup. They’ve got a plan for the week, but yesterday, a number of tees were moved forward and yesterday the course played around 7,000 yards (it can play as long as 7,200 yards if stretched fully).
“The wind speeds were a shade higher than forecast, and the way and time at which the wind got up was a little unexpected. We spoke to a lot of players – and the two committee members in particular speak to the players on a regular basis – and the feedback that we got was that it was very tough alright, but not unfair. But we took that on board, looked at the course analysis, and the course has been shortened by another 150 yards today.”
Similar weather is forecast for today’s round, with strong winds expected once again, and the potential that the forecast have again underestimated the gusts is something that the tournament committee have taken into consideration.
“The guys have been out there this morning since six o-clock, break-testing the greens to ensure that the pins are in relatively flat and accessible spots, we’ve erred on the side of caution on a number of tees on the basis that the wind might gust again this afternoon. And at the moment, the weather forecast is worse for tomorrow than it is today so again, we’ll take that into account and set the course up accordingly.”
Tough as it was, there were still some exceptionally good scores and four players broke par which was no mean feat given the strength of the wind. The wind, of course, is links golf courses main source of protection and had they wanted to make it really punishing, with the wind as strong as it was, they could’ve ensured that no player broke 75.
“You never get everything 100% right,” Wehrly admits, “particularly here at the West where you’re never quite sure what the weather is going to throw at you, and I think there was a very decent effort yesterday on our part to make the course as playable as possible and looking at the scoring and looking at the feedback, we’ve made those minor tweaks again today.”
The format at the West of Ireland Championship sees competitors engage in 54 holes of strokeplay with the top 16 advancing to compete in matchplay to determine the eventual champion.
“Our goal isn’t to present the course at its absolute toughest, particularly in the strokeplay section, though we’ll generally make it tougher when we reach the matchplay, particularly on the tees. The emphasis on our side is never to really punish the players and to try to keep things going from a pace of play perspective which was pretty good yesterday in spite of the conditions, and we were happy with that.
“But today’s setup is based on the detailed scoring analysis from yesterday and on the feedback that we received from the players, and we want to ensure that it’s scorable as well as playable and I think that’s what we’ll see today.”
You can follow the live scoring via Golf Ireland by clicking here.
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