Celebrating its 125th anniversary, Lahinch Golf Club will host the 116th South of Ireland Amateur Open Championship, starting Wednesday.
The Championship kicks off with 150 of the leading amateurs in the country participating in 36-hole stroke play qualifying over the Wednesday and Thursday, with the top 64 coming through to the match-play stages. The semi-finals and final take place on Sunday July 30th.
Pierse Motors Volkswagen, based in Tipperary town, have announced their continue d sponsorship of Ireland’s oldest Championship, which will once again provide the country’s top amateurs with one last opportunity to stake a claim for selection onto the Home Internationals’ side in August.
Padraig Slattery, Captain Lahinch Golf Club, said “Last year, nine of the victorious Irish Men’s team played in the South of Ireland. Lahinch Golf Club is appreciative of the support of the Golfing Union of Ireland in ensuring that our leading golfers have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of previous winners such as John Burke, JB Carr, Paul McGinley, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell.”
Indeed it’s no wonder the cream of golfing talent return year on year to compete for a prize won by so many Irish greats down the years. The first name Slattery chose to mention was John Burke, a larger than life character who dominated Irish amateur golf during the interwar years. Burke grew up near Lahinch and between 1928 and 1946, he won the South a staggering eleven times. In 1951 his playing days were brought to an abrupt end after he was diagnosed with debilitating arthritis, but not before he had established an immense reputation that will forever withstand the test of time.
Joe Carr was born in Inchicore in Dublin and won his first major golf tournament, the East of Ireland championship, in 1941. A British Amateur Champion, Carr won the South of Ireland three times in an illustrious career that saw him win the Silver Medal as an amateur at both the 1956 and ’58 British Opens, as well as finishing 8th in the overall event in 1960. He was a member of a record eleven Walker Cup teams and was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2007. He died in 2004 as President of Mount Juliet Golf Club. The members of the Kilkenny course play for the annual J.B. Carr Trophy to this day.
In 1990, Dungannon’s Darren Clarke beat Waterville’s Jim Carville 4&3 to etch his name on the coveted trophy. Clarke has gone on to win 21 tournaments worldwide across golf’s main tours but had to wait until 2011 for his most famous victory. Clarke defied the odds to win a first Major championship at the British Open in Royal St George’s at his 54th attempt. He was later named as the 2016 Ryder Cup Captain in a forgettable renewal for Europe but still plies his trade out on Tour in a bid to rediscover some of that old form that made him a true Irish great.
In 1991 the South threw up another eventual Ryder Cup captain as Paul McGinley took the title. McGinley went on to win four times on the European Tour but will undoubtedly be forever remembered as the man who holed the winning putt for Europe at the 2002 Ryder Cup at The Belfry. The image of his putter flying through the air as he jumped for joy will have Irish eyes smiling for a long while yet. He went on to become the first Irishman to captain a Ryder Cup side when he successfully led Europe to victory at Gleneagles in 2014. Watch out for him on the Seniors Tour this year.
Rathmore’s Graeme McDowell got in on the act in 2000 when he beat Ken Kearney of Galway 3&2 to claim the prestigious jewel of the South. A decade later he won the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach to continue a great run of Irish success in Majors at the time. McDowell is still very much a player on Tour as he strives to reignite a career that has slightly stalled of late. All signs point to him achieving that sooner rather than later.
There is no greater incentive for those competing this week than reading the list of past champions at the South. It is a breeding ground for career golfers and the perfect foundation on which to build if successful. It should inspire the field and if the sun shines on Lahinch, no doubt the players will deliver a feast of golf for what promises to be a special renewal of Ireland’s oldest championship.