Claridge takes leading qualifier honours as the West moves to match play

Mark McGowan

James Claridge - Image by Irish Golfer

20-year-old Englishman James Claridge shot a two-over round of 73 in horrendous conditions at County Sligo Golf Club to win the Pat Ruddy Perpetual Trophy for leading individual scorer at the Connolly’s Audi West of Ireland Championship.

Howling wind has been the standard for the tournament thus far, but the addition of driving rain made scoring particularly difficult throughout the day.

Playing in the last group alongside Galgorm Castle’s Jordan Hood and 36-hole leader Cian Harkin of Letterkenny, Claridge fired two birdies on the opening nine, going bogey free to establish a comfortable advantage approaching the toughest stretch of the course.


A double-bogey at 11 after finding sand brought him back to level for the day, and bogeys at 15 and 17 were almost to be expected given how difficult those holes played directly into the wind.

He’d arrive at the 18th tee with a two-stroke advantage over Jake Whelan and a comfortable par at the last secured top individual honours ahead for the talented Enville clubman.

“I probably started thinking about the individual lead on the first tee,” Claridge said afterwards, “I decided to try and win it rather than trying to get top 16 because it was going to be so tough out there that if you started thinking of just trying to nudge it around and protect the top-16 then things could start to get away from you pretty fast.

“I just wanted to put up a good number and then the rest would take care of itself.”

Asked whether anything less than overall victory would be a disappointment given his performance over the opening three days, Claridge was apprehensive of his chances.

“It’s tough to say,” he responded, “because matchplay is so different that somebody who finished seven strokes behind me over the three days could go out there and shoot a great one or I don’t really have it on the day. That’s the thing about matchplay, and I think my game is probably better suited to strokeplay so we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Playing a few groups ahead, Whelan fired an incredible round of one-under, which, along with Jordan Boles’ earlier effort, was the round of the day. 2021 West of Ireland champion Hugh Foley, playing alongside Whelan, went round in one over to safely secure his place in the top-16.

“I hit it well for the first nine holes,” Whelan said, “I had a few ropey drives then but I putted well coming in so that helped a lot.”

“I’m really happy with my day’s work,” Foley added, “I was just trying to keep up with Jake though. And we were a serious group and Joe Lyons played extremely well too. But Jake’s putting was incredible and I don’t want to play him tomorrow morning.”

Harkin, whose three-under in round two remains the lowest score of the week, shot what he described as the best nine over of his life to make his way safely through, and he’s also joined by Irish Amateur champion Quentin Carew, James Hewitt, Marc Boucher, Sligo trio of David Sheil, Ruairi O’Connor and Barry Anderson, Roganstown sensation Patrick Keeling, pre-tournament favourite Arron Edwards-Hill, Jack McDonnell, and Jordan Hood.

Four players tied for 14th  at +10, meaning that Joe Lyons, Darragh Flynn, Gary Collins and Shane McDermott would go back out to playoff for the remaining two spots. Wily veteran Lyons – a former West of Ireland champion – birdied the first playoff hole to secure his place in the matchplay section, and McDermott tapped in for par after Flynn and Collin’s par-putts slipped by to capture the final berth.

The 16 will return to the links for the matchplay round of 16 from 7:15 tomorrow morning, and the draw can be found by clicking here.


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