The Sligo course hosts the tournament each Easter
After five days of action, just four players remain in contention to win the West of Ireland Amateur Championships at the Co. Sligo Golf Club in Rosses Point.
William Small, Jack Pierse, Jake Whelan and Barry Anderson will compete in Tuesday’s semi-finals. The winner will be crowned later that afternoon.
The tournament is one of the most prestigious in Irish golf. Previous winners on the Sligo links include Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Shane Lowry and Des Smyth.
McIlroy won the tournament twice in a row. In 2005, the then 15-year-old claimed the title, before defending it the following year. Two years after McIlroy’s second win, Shane Lowry won the title. The Offaly golfer would go on and win the Irish Open 14 months later.
The traditional Easter timing of the tournament, and its location so early in the year is one of the main selling points of the West of Ireland, according to Co. Sligo GC Captain, Tom Horkan.
“We started the tournament in 1923. The South of Ireland had already began by that stage, and took place in the middle of summer. The East is later in the year and our tournament slotted into Easter in the 1930s. It’s a great slot, because it’s in the holidays.”
Numerous holes have been redeveloped in recent years by Pat Ruddy. The original Harry Colt redesign from the 1920s had seen the course, provide an easier test than was hoped for modern players.
“When you don’t have the weather and the wind, most links course play pretty easy”, Horkan admitted. “Our par-5s were relatively easy. They were not even difficult par-4s. The hope is now that the course is three shots harder.”
Co. Sligo is to host the 2019 Irish Amateur Open, on what will be the 125th anniversary of the Golf Club. Due to it’s proximity with Easter in two years time, he expects the West to move on the calendar for the year.
The Irish Amateur Open is the biggest tournament in the amateur calendar, but Horkan admitted the dream of hosting the Irish Open in County Sligo remains a dream.
No Connacht course has ever hosted the event and Horkan told Newstalk.com, “we’d always be looking for that”
Great support here at the 11th green pic.twitter.com/C3QpYcaNg7— West Golf 2017 (@2017woig) April 17, 2017
No local player has won the title since Cecil Ewing was victorious in 1950. Ewing would go on and lose two further finals after his last triumph. Since then, Ken Kearney is the only Co. Sligo golfer to reach the final. He lost to Padraig Harrington in 1994.
Three local golfers reached the quarter-finals, with Barry Anderson reaching the final four. Anderson, who plays in Royal Dublin, defeated Co. Sligo’s David Brady on the 18th. Gary McDermott, who has often been seen as the best chance of local success, is now based out of Carton House. He was defeated by Jake Whelan 4&2.
Despite the lack of success in recent years for local golfers, Horkan revealed the “pressure” on local players may be helping the drought.
“There is a lot of pressure on the home players. You definitely see the crowds out watching them. It’s adds to the pressure. We’re always hopeful for a local win”.
The Championship Course at Rosses Point is regularly voted as one of the top-ten golf courses in Ireland. With the annual hosting of the West of Ireland, and the Irish Amateur Open to come in 2019, the hidden gem may get a global audience in the not too distant future.