Ronan Mullarney is the leading contender among the four Irish contenders who’ll tee it up in the 2023 Gösser Open at Golf Club Erzherzog Johann in the picturesque town of Maria Lankowitz, just ouside Graz in southern Austria.
Thanks to a fifth place finish at the season-opening Elin Bay Open, Mullarney is the highest ranked Irishman on the Alps Tour Order of Merit in 13th, and he’s joined in the field by James Sugrue, Paul McBride and Paul Murphy.
A strong 144-man field has assembled, which features the winners of each of the season’s three previous events in England’s Jack Floydd, Quim Vidal of Spain and the most recent winner, Dutchman Kiet Van der Weele, along with defending champion and two-time European Tour winner Markus Brier.
The Gösser Open, is one of the most important stops of the Tour season and it is the oldest tournament on the Alps Tour schedule, as well as being the longest running professional golf tournament played in Austria.
Along with Brier, the roll of honour at the Gösser Open includes England’s Matt Wallace who recently captured his maiden PGA Tour title and is on Luke Donald’s shortlist for Ryder Cup selection at Marco Simone Golf Club later this year.
The tournament is a 54-hole strokeplay event, with a 36-hole cut at the the top 40 and ties mark, with a total prize fund of €40,000 of which the winner will receive €5,800.
With the top-5 on the Order of Merit progressing to the European Challenge Tour in 2024, consistency across the 13-event schedule plus grand final is imperative, but it’s likely that wins will be the determining factor and Mullarney shares these sentiments.
“On the EuroPro tour, you had to win,” Mullarney said, “because there was a massive disparity between first, second and third. You really had to win. On this tour, you don’t specifically have to, but the odds are you’re going to need to. If you end up in the top five, you’ll most likely have won something because the standard of play is so good on this tour, that if you’re hanging around the top five every week anyway, it’ll be very surprising if you don’t win. It’d be very impressive actually if you get top five without a win.”
Back in Ireland between Alps Tour events, the Galway man is spending most of his time in Dublin where he’s made his base at Grange Golf Club, and been sharpening his skills on the domestic pro circuit.
“They’ve been very good to me at the Grange,” he said, “so I’m a member there and that’s where I’ve been doing most of my practicing, and I’ve played a couple of the Hillary Series events and they’re really good actually. So just doing what I can to stay sharp really.”
As for the course this week, the 27-year-old who played his way into the 2022 Open Championship only arrived on Tuesday evening, flying into Vienna and then making the near three-hour trek to Maria Lankowitz.
“I got nine holes in there,” Mullarney said a few hours after arriving, “it’s a really nice golf course, amazing place in the mountains here in Austria. It’s a little soft at the moment but there’s a lot of rain coming so it’ll be really soft for the tournament, very soft greens, and I’m sure it’ll be lift, clean and place. I like the look of the course, really grainy greens which might take a little getting used to, but yeah, I really like it so it should be good.”
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