County Sligo GC gears up for Connolly Motor Group West of Ireland Championship

Mark McGowan

L-R: Mark McGoldrick, Richard Graham (Connolly's Sligo), Valerie Booker (Lady Captain) Jim Flood (Men's Captain) Ada Kenny (Lady President) Michael Reynolds, Paul O'Reilly, Padraic Gallagher (Connolly's Sligo)

Mark McGowan

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It’s less than four weeks until the 101st West of Ireland Championship, sponsored by Connolly Motor Group gets underway at County Sligo Golf Club with a pre-tournament qualifier on Wednesday March 27 with the tournament proper getting underway on Friday March 29 and concluding on Tuesday April 02.

The Championship is held on the iconic Harry Colt designed Championship Course at County Sligo, situated on the picturesque Rosses Point Peninsula – a course that 1980 runner-up and subsequent European Ryder Cup hero Philip Walton once described as having one of the best closing stretches in golf; a closing stretch that began on the seventh hole.

After a two-year trial period in which the tournament format was switched to 54 holes of strokeplay with the top 16 advancing to matchplay, Golf Ireland have reverted back to the 36-hole strokeplay and 64-man matchplay format, a move that has been welcomed by players, fans and County Sligo Golf Club officials alike.

“I think everybody wanted to go back to the original format,” said County Sligo Golf Club General Manager David O’Donovan, “I think it’s the one that works for the members here and also for the people who watch golf because they can pick a match and go and follow it, or they can pick four matches and watch golf at eight o’clock, 10 o’clock, two o’clock, etc. I know I’m going to be watching. It’s man against man to a certain extent, it’s not man against the course.”

The West of Ireland Championship, which is always held on Easter weekend, has long been the traditional start of the men’s amateur Championship season and the tournament’s roll of honour is the envy of most. The legendary J.B. Carr won the championship 12 times, including a triplet of three-in-a-rows, while Cecil Ewing won it 10 times and completed his own three-in-a-row in 1943. More recently, major winners Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry all triumphed at the Rosses Point links, with McIlroy winning the first of his back-to-back titles at the tender age of 15 back in 2005.

“It’s a tremendous event for the club,” said Captain Jim Flood, “because the members themselves are always very interested in it. Being Easter, a lot of the local families come back, get together for the first time since Christmas, and then we get a lot of visitors who come down every year to watch the West and it creates a fantastic atmosphere in the club, around the village and in the Sligo area. It’s been a long winter, but the West always brings the sense that golf is back.”

The West of Ireland Championship Trophy
The West of Ireland Championship Trophy

With the Irish Amateur Open also being held at County Sligo Golf Club in May, a strong field is expected to assemble once again for the West of Ireland Championship, and former champion Hugh Foley and 2022 US Mid-Amateur Champion Matthew McClean are among those who’ve already committed to the event with the entry deadline of 23:59 on Sunday March 03.

For the third year in succession, Connolly Motor Group are the proud sponsors of the event which will also be broadcast live on Ocean FM.

“It’s a great tournament,” said Richard Graham, Connolly’s Sligo Sales Executive, “and it’s one of the longest running Championships on the island. As a family run business in the west of Ireland, it’s nice to have that synergy and this year we’ve got the full Connolly Motor Group on board so the entire brand is involved.”

“I’m from Sligo myself,” added Connolly’s Sligo Sales Manager, Mark McGoldrick, “so it’s nice to be part of sponsoring a local event. I’ve often come out and watched the tournament like many others have. And when you see what some of the previous winners have gone on to achieve, that makes this event get better and better every year.”

Players wishing to enter the event can do so by clicking here, and the club advise that anybody who has entered and is struggling to organise accommodation can contact the club directly for help by calling +353 71 9177134, or via email.

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