Irish amateur golf is on the rise and it’s not just the Irish players who can’t get enough of it.
Fifty five international players are set to tee it up in the Island in a fortnight at the Flogas Men’s Irish Amateur Open Championship in what is set to be one of the most high quality fields seen in a few years.
The Irish championship season kicked off in style at a typically wet and windy Co. Sligo where Ben Bulben spat biblical rain at the players in Rosses Point. That didn’t put off the good spirits or any of the print, online, social or local coverage.
England’s James Claridge strengthened his Walker Cup chances by winning the Centenary West of Ireland Championship, but it seems Irish amateur golf was the real winner with visiting players from the UK blown away by the setup, golf course and media coverage.
“Some of the English lads and Scottish lads were thinking, ‘Irish amateur golf is unreal, is it like this all the time?’ It is actually brilliant,” said Royal Dublin’s Hugh Foley.
“I’ve played regional events in England, Scotland and Wales and there’s nothing like the support that Irish amateur golf gets, it’s brilliant. Golf is mostly losses so it’s nice to get a few wins and get some nice pieces written.”
Foley feels amateur golf is a purer form of the sport amidst all the cloudiness and disillusion surrounding tour level golf.
“With LIV and all this stuff, every week is all about money, how much are these guys getting, how much are LIV getting, money, money, money. All the players are saying the money is great, the Masters is great, jacket is nice but the money this year is up, it’s tiring hearing them talking about millions and millions of dollars.
“All they talk about is money. The fans are interested but they are watching golf to see who wins. If amateur golf was more broadcasted it would be interesting to see if more people would watch it.”
There is a tight connection between the English and Irish players with 25 Englishman coming to Dublin including John Gough who is the highest ranked player at 14th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
Foley’s first venture in Ireland’s national championship came in Royal County Down in 2018 and he feels the field could rival the one set for the Island.
“I’ve heard the field is quite good. I started playing in Royal County Down in 2018, I got in as an U21 from the West and I was blown away by the players. Stewart Hagestad, top French, Swedish and Swiss players were there and the tournament was ranked A.
“It was a serious event. It dipped a little bit but it’s great to see after Covid that it’s coming back as a real main event. The Island golf course is very convenient for the airport so it’s great to see that drawing in a top field which the event should have.
“The fact it doesn’t clash is the main thing. You need to keep your national events not clashing so it’s great that it will be a free week for a lot of players.”
Co. Sligo has already played host to a championship this term with the Island coming up next for its second successive hosting of the Irish Amateur Open. Woodbrook will host the Women’s Irish Amateur while Beltway, Lahinch and Royal Portrush are all set to play host to men’s championships this year.
Foley feels the quality of Irish championship golf courses is fantastic and Ireland boasts a catalogue of venues fit to rival anywhere in the world.
“It’s fantastic the agreement that Golf Ireland have with clubs and it’s great to see the clubs keep welcoming us back every year because they lose revenue for the week so it’s fantastic that they keep their courses for us.
“I feel as players we owe a lot to the courses and the staff and who ever has the decision to host. From a money making point of view they don’t make green fees that week so it’s brilliant that the tradition of Irish events on fantastic golf courses is still going.
“That’s why the Irish events are so good. I hold them very dear to myself, I’ve grown up watching them since I was seven. Watching Rory [McIlroy] and the tradition is great and it’s great to keep that going.
“If I was a player in the UK, I would be looking to play as many Irish championships as I can just because of the courses. Royal Portrush is arguably the best course in the world, you’ve got Baltray, Lahinch, the Island, Sligo etc.
“Some of the Irish links championship courses rank high above anywhere I’ve played in the UK. You play strong courses in the UK maybe twice a year but we have fantastic championship golf courses consistently.”
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