One of the world’s great golf championships will return to Irish soil next year when the 121st Women’s Amateur Championship comes to Portmarnock Golf Club for the first time since 1931.
The best golfers in the amateur ranks will go in search of one of golf’s great prizes from June 24-29 2024 and Ireland look set to have a catalogue of contenders to become the seventh golfer from the island to etch their name onto the iconic trophy.
Portmarnock released its preview film of the championship earlier this week and it has only served to whet the appetite for what should be a fantastic occasion.
The Amateur Championship came to Portmarnock in 2019 and the Dublin links was blessed to produce Mallow man James Sugrue as the winner and they will be hoping one of the Girls in Green can emulate his success.
Ireland has had good success in the Women’s Amateur Championship, with six winners coming from the island most notably, Stephanie Meadow (2012) and Leona Maguire (2017) who have gone on to turn professional and ply their trade on the LPGA Tour.
Kitty MacCann was Ireland’s first winner in 1951 before Philomena Garvey etched her name onto the trophy six years later.
A famine ensued before Maureen Madill beat Jane Lock 2&1 in 1979 before Lillian Behan won in 1985, the last before Meadow triumphed in 2012.
Portmarnock member, Mary McKenna is Ireland’s greatest living female amateur and she had her fair share of close shaves in the Women’s Amateur, reaching the semi-final on four occasions.
“It’s a great honour for Portmarnock to host such an event and it’s going to bring in the best golfers worldwide. They have all the facilities and they have the experience of major tournaments,” said McKenna.
“We are all aware of how successful the Men’s Amateur was in 2019 and we are all driven to deliver a bigger and better event,” added Portmarnock General Manager Elaine McBride.
Golf Ireland also announced its Women’s High Performance Panel this week and it is littered with players who everyone should have their eyes on heading to Portmarnock next year.
2023 has been a prolific year for Ireland’s female amateur golfers with Lahinch’s Áine Donegan putting herself on the map with a brilliant performance at the US Women’s Open in Pebble Beach where she outshone Leona Maguire.
Donegan also performed well with Beth Coulter (Kirkistown Castle) and Douglas star Sara Byrne at last month’s World Amateur Team Championships where they finished 13th representing Ireland.
Coulter also has an impressive record in the Women’s Amateur Championship, progressing from the 36-hole strokeplay qualifying twice, including being the leading qualifier last year while she has reached the last-32 and the quarter-final.
Donegan was sixth in strokeplay qualifying last year en route to a first round exit while Byrne made it to the last-32 before embarking on a glorious summer.
The Cork woman won the Irish Close championship, finished as the low amateur at the KPMG Women’s Irish Open and has won twice on the US college circuit since returning in the autumn.
“Sara Byrne picked up the silver medal at the KPMG Women’s Irish Open and has continued her great form of late, and no doubt she will be one of our players targeting a Curtis Cup place when it goes to Sunningdale at the tail end of the season,” said Golf Ireland High Performance Director, Neil Manchip.
Anna Foster of Elm Park also qualified for her first major championship at the AIG Women’s Open while Kate Lanigan recently won an R&A Student Series event and having joined Portmarnock on a university membership she will have no shortage of home support next June.
We also can’t rule out a number of our young guns coming through the ranks with Clandeboye starlet Rebekah Gardner, Roscommon hotshot Olivia Costello and Bridgestone Order of Merit winner Emma Fleming (Elm Park) destined to have big futures in the game.
In May of 2021, Portmarnock voted to admit women as members before electing their first female members in 128 years in December 2022.
Portmarnock was awarded the hosting of the Women’s Amateur Championship last May and although it is a stand alone event, that only increased chatter that it could host the Open Championship.
Although R&A CEO Martin Slumbers poured cold water on the subject last year the governing body confirmed last month that Portmarnock is among the candidates to host the Open which would make it the first club outside of the UK to play host to the Claret Jug.
It is expected that the Women’s Amateur and the yet to be confirmed AIG Women’s Open will act as precursors for the Open Championship and in awarding Portmarnock the Women’s Amateur so soon after admitting female members to the club, the R&A are keen to fast track the club onto the Open rota and cash in on the legacy that will be built on from two Portrush dates.
Portmarnock still has a long way to go to host the Open Championship with issues like access high on the agenda but running a highly successful Women’s Amateur Championship would go a long way to securing their slot on the Open rota.