Starting today, The AIG Irish Amateur Close is the final championship of the season and the last chance for players to win a major in 2018.
Defending champion Jamie Fletcher (Warrenpoint) is absent through injury but 2016 winner Alex Gleeson (Castle) leads a fine cast of Ireland internationals in the field for this year’s Close.
Currently second on the Bridgestone Order of Merit, Gleeson could overtake long-time leader Robin Dawson by reaching the last 16 at The European Club. Dawson is playing the US Amateur in Pebble Beach and his absence from the Close opens the door for a host of challengers on the Order of Merit.
Gleeson boasts a strong track record at the Close. As well as his win at Ballyliffin in 2016, he reached the final in 2015. The 24-year-old Dubliner impressed at the start to the season, reaching the West of Ireland final and finishing tied second at the European Nations Cup.
Gleeson also tied for second at the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship in May.
Drawn among a marquee group for stroke play qualifying at the Close, Gleeson plays alongside South of Ireland champion Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) and fellow international Rowan Lester (Hermitage). Rafferty beat Lester in the final of the South at Lahinch and both players will be heartened by their recent form as they chase another good run.
Kinsale’s John Murphy, winner of the St Andrews Links Trophy, plays alongside his St Andrews Trophy teammate Conor Purcell (Portmarnock) and Peter Kerr (Royal Portrush) in qualifying. Kerr reached the semi-finals of the Close in 2015.
The first round of this year’s Close tees off at 8am on Saturday morning at The European Club with the top 64 progressing to the match play stages following a 36-hole cut.
Live scoring HERE