Woods Masters win fuels chase for Open Championship tickets

April 16, 2019

It was probably just coincidence but Tiger Woods winning the Masters and extra tickets going on sale for July’s Open Championship sent the R&A ticket site into meltdown on Monday.
Woods’ remarkable victory at Augusta National has raised the excitement levels another notch ahead of the Open’s historic return to Royal Portrush.
“We were already looking forward to seeing him at Royal Portush (July18-21) but for him to come here as reigning Masters champion will make it extra special,” said Royal Portrush Professional, Gary McNeill.
“Perhaps that was reflected today with so many people looking to get tickets. I’m sure many people would have been looking those tickets anyway but the fact Tiger won no doubt spurred more people on to try and get their hands on them.
“He is such a big draw and you could see that at Augusta with all the patrons cheering and clapping him onto every tee and green and everyone was delighted to see him win.
“He will be thinking grand slam now. Next month’s PGA Championship is at Bethpage where he has won before and then the US Open is at Pebble Beach where we won in style back in 2000.
“Imagine if he arrives at Royal Portrush with those two under his belt as well. Now that would be incredible.”

Last year tickets for championship days (Thur-Sun) at The Open sold out in record time prompting The R&A to explore increasing the capacity. A further 15,000 were released on Monday via the R&A’s ‘The One Club’.
An R&A spokesman said; “We have seen extremely high levels of demand for tickets today which led to us experiencing some technical issues with the website. These issues were resolved earlier and we are now receiving orders from fans purchasing tickets.
“We have communicated with members of The One Club to keep them informed. We would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused and would encourage those fans on the waiting list to keep trying via the website.”
Woods has yet to set foot on the North Coast gem but his victory on Sunday ensures that he will deservedly be one of the favourites come July.
“It was unbelievable after what he has been through in the last 10 years,” added Gary.
“To come back and win a major, I wasn’t sure he would do it but having won the Tour Championship at the tail end of last year obviously proved to himself that he could do it.
“To be able to do it, in the most difficult of circumstances on a course that tests every aspect of your game. It was fantastic.”


Peoples and Kernaghan dovetail perfectly to win Fourball event at Lough Erne

April 14, 2019

The 8th at Lough Erne

There was a truly international flavour to the end-of-season PGA Ulster Branch Fourball Tournament at Lough Erne Resort as Andy Peoples and Nathan Kernaghan surged to the top of the leaderboard to claim the honours.
New Zealander Peoples, a product of the Darren Clarke Golf School, retains his home country tag and teamed up with Massereene’s Kernaghan to post a three-under-par 69 to finish one shot clear of Ricky Whitford/Nicky Grant and Matthew Cochrane/Michael Stanford.
It was the Massereene man who set the ball rolling with a birdie three at the second hole where he wedged to six feet before Peoples recorded a birdie hat-trick from the fourth.
A drive, four iron and a gap wedge to three feet set up a birdie at the par five fourth. He then rifled a five iron to three feet for a birdie two at the next and the treble was completed with another birdie four at the sixth following a pitch and putt.
That saw the winners out in four-under-32 but the run was halted at the 12th where a lost ball and bunker trouble cost the pair a stroke for bogey five.
Kernaghan steadied the ship again with a birdie four at 14, rolling in a five-footer, and Peoples responded at the next hole with his second birdie two, getting down from eight feet after a nine iron tee shot.
Now coasting at five under, the wheels came off at 16 and 17 as both players were guilty of mistakes and the pair suffered back-to-back finishing bogeys but they clung on to seal the victory.
That finishes the Northern Branch activity until the new season begins in October.

PGA Northern Branch Fourball Tournament at Lough Erne Resort
69 (-3) – A Peoples (New Zealand) & N Kernaghan (Massereene).
70 – R Whitford (Knock Head Pro) & N Grant (Knock Assistant Pro); M Cochrane (American Golf) & M Stanford (Lough Erne}.
71 – G Graham (Groomsport Golf Centre) & C Lyttle (Donaghadee); G Shaw (Moyola Pk) & R Kilpatrick (Banbridge).

With thanks to Tony McGee

No guarantees of Masters success for Rory

April 9, 2019

We’ve been here before, Rory McIlroy and The Masters.
According to the perceived wisdom, Rory’s game is tailor-made for Augusta National.
It’s a done deal. He’s bound to win it. The Holywood golfer will pull on the green jacket and join the list of golfing greats to complete the grand slam.
It’s all nonsense of course. Speak to Greg Norman about winning at Augusta or ask Phil Mickelson about the grand slam. The 48-year-old is still waiting on that elusive US Open win to book his own place amongst the golfing legends. Nearly 20 years of trying and he’s finished second six times.
There is ample evidence to suggest that Augusta National suits the games of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Keopka and Justin Rose just as well as Rory, maybe even better. And if they are considered genuine contenders, can anyone seriously rule out in-form Francesco Molinari or Paul Casey?
The truth is that some parts of Rory’s game, his driving, his long iron play give him an advantage at Augusta, but his inconsistent wedge game and his shaky putting have held him back.
Yet for all that, as the 29-year-old gears up for the opening major of the season, and his 11th appearance at The Masters, there are genuine reasons to be positive about his chances, the most significant being his very strong competitive start to the season.
At the back end of last year, when he signaled his intentions to stay closer to home in Florida and focus more on the US PGA Tour it was seen by many as a direct slap in the face to the European Tour.
He insisted that it was all about getting back to the summit of the game and his performances would suggest that he made the right decision. No missed cuts, seven top 10’s, a second and crucially a win at the Players’ Championship where he had to dig deep after an early wobble.
He is now up to third in the world and his putting has certainly improved under the guidance of former tour pro Brad Faxon but his wedge play still needs some work, especially from 75-100 yards in. Even just a small gain could make a decisive difference.
He also heads to Augusta full of confidence following that win at Sawgrass but the real test will be how he deals with expectation levels, both public and personal. He has spoken in recent months about the three P’s – patience, perspective and poise – and that mantra will surely be put to the test at Augusta.
Ahead of the recent Dell Match-play event he said; “I would have said a couple of years ago, ‘I need to win a Masters. I need a Green Jacket’. Where now it’s, ‘I want to. I want to win it. And I’d love to win it’. But if I don’t I’m okay.
“I’ve had ten years of learning at Augusta, some tough times. And if one day I’m able to get that Green Jacket at the end of 72 holes, all of those experiences will have played a part in helping me do that. So have I a desire to do it? Yes. Do I have a need to do it? No.”
He’s playing well, he’s seemingly in a good place mentally only time will tell if 2019 will be his year.

Shorts or no shorts Molinari looking forward to Open Championship defence

April 3, 2019

In a bold break with tradition, the R&A announced on Tuesday that competitors would be allowed to wear shorts at this year’s Open Championship – on practice days only.
The news was revealed just as a particularly brisk snow shower whipped across the Dunluce Links sending golfers scattering in search of extra thermals.
The prospect of wearing shorts on the north coast, even in July, certainly seemed to amuse the defending Open champion, Francesco Molinari.
“There are people playing golf in shorts all around the world. So I don’t see why we should be different but I don’t think it will be a priority in Portrush this summer,” said Molinari.
Currently ranked number seven in the world, Molinari has enjoyed a dramatic rise to prominence over the last 18 months marked by his superb Open win at Carnoustie last year and a starring role in Europe’s Ryder Cup success in France.
The 36-year-old Italian, who has some recent experience of playing Royal Portrush when he competed at the 2012 Irish Open, is expecting a fabulous atmosphere come July.
“It was impressive to see how quickly all the tickets were sold initially, so it’s nice to see the R&A making more tickets available to the fans,” said Molinari.

“I remember playing there in the Irish Open the year after Darren had won the Open Championship and being paired with Darren the first round, and yes, it was something I still remember, so I can only imagine what the Open is going to be – it is going to be even bigger, obviously, going back to Northern Ireland after so many years.

“Yeah, it is going to be nice for me, obviously – defending is always special – but defending in a place where the tournament has not been for so long I’m sure is going to be extra special.”
He continued; “I remember the weather [at Royal Portrush} was not great for four days and it was a very challenging course, you know, with the wind and the rain and yeah, probably obviously not as flat as Carnoustie but a bit more elevation changes from what I remember.
“But, yeah, apart from that, just a very typical links challenge. The weather is going to play a huge part. But, yeah, I’ve got nice memories from the course, from the town. I remember it being a fun week. So I’m looking forward to going back there and seeing the changes to the course as well.”
Molinari has shown no signs of resting on his laurels in the wake of his amazing 2018. He won the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month and finished third in the recent WGC-Matchplay tournament.
“I think, for me, winning is a huge motivation and spurs me on to do even more, and that’s what I’ve done this winter, working as hard as I have ever done,” he said.
“And I think you can see the way I’m playing, that, you know, I didn’t settle, I didn’t stop. Like I was saying before, the dream is to keep improving. I feel like I haven’t reached my limit yet. So, the dream is to see how far I can go and hopefully get as many wins as possible along the way.”

Banbridge players steal the show at Ulster Golfers’ Alliance finale

March 27, 2019

Banbridge players cleaned up as the Ulster Golfers’ Alliance Race to Concra Wood crossed the finishing line in Castleblayney.
Along with the team prize, professional Richard Kilpatrick topped the leaderboard with a round of 69 (-3) while Jonathan Ward grabbed the amateur nett crown.
In the pro event, Brian McElhinney (Evolve Golf Coaching) finished one shot shy of the winner with Nicky Grant (Blackwood), Gareth Shaw (Moyola Park) and Richard Whitford (Knock) tied for third
Kilpatrick set out his stall immediately with a birdie at the par five first hole where he was a few yards short of the green in two and pitched and putted for a four.
He then pencilled in another birdie four at the fourth in similar circumstances to be out in two-under 34.
Strangely, it was a short hole that cost him his only bogey of the day as he missed the green at the 14th with a six iron and failed to get up and down in regulation.
He bounced back immediately on the par five 15th, finding the front edge of the green in two followed by two putts. And he wrapped up his round in style on the 18th firing an eight iron approach to six inches for a homeward nine of 35 blows.
Scratch player Damian McCusker, from Moyola Park, won the amateur’s gross prize on 34 points.
To wrap up the UGA winter action there will be a pro-only Fourball Betterball event at Lough Erne Resort on April 9.

Ping UGA Race to Concra Wood Leaderboard
Professionals: 69 (-3) – R Kilpatrick (Banbridge).
70 – B McElhinney (Evolve Golf Coaching).
71 – N Grant (Blackwood), G Shaw (Moyola Pk), R Whitford (Knock).
72 – P Hanna (Lurgan).
Amateurs: Nett, 38 pts – J Ward (2) (Banbridge).
36 – S Burns (7) (Warrenpoint).
35 – A Connolly (4) (Blackwood) …. 3rd on countback.
35 – P O’Donnell (3) (Whitehead) …. 4th.
Gross, 34 pts – D McCusker scr (Moyola Pk).
Team: 85 pts – Pro R Kilpatrick (Banbridge with amateurs J Ward 2 (Banbridge), S Burns 7 (Warrenpoint) & C Wilton 2 (Banbridge).

With thanks to Tony McGee

Shaw and Kilpatrick lead the way at Castlerock

March 21, 2019

Richard Kilpatrick and Gareth Shaw topped the leaderboard at Castlerock GC in the final qualifying event of the Race to Concra Wood supported by Golf Now.
The duo finished their rounds with 41pts each, leaving Wesley Ramsey (Knockbracken Golf Academy) in third, four points off the pace.
Banbridge GC’s Kilpatrick was first to set the target as he spread seven birdies over his impressive card.
The birdie barrage began at the par four second where he holed from six feet following a fine sand-wedge approach. He followed up with a two-putt birdie at the par-five second and added a third birdie at the sixth from 12 feet.
On a day of low scoring it was the short holes that caused some problems for Richard as he missed the green at the ninth and failed to get up and down for par and, after flying the 16th surface with a pitching wedge, he also pencilled in bogey four.
Out in two under 34 he picked up further birdies at the 11th, 13th, 15th and 17th At the long 11th he got down in two putts from 35 feet, holed a 40-footer for a three at 13, got up and down for another birdie four at 15 and two-putted from 20 feet on 17 for his final birdie of the day.
Shaw highlighted his card with two eagle threes, carved out with a drive and six iron to four feet at the fifth and a 20-foot putt after a four iron to the 17th green. He also birdied the long third and 11th holes with a chip and putt each time.
The Moyola pro also carded a birdie three at the 12th where he rolled home a 20-footer.
His only lapse of the day came at the short 16 where his tee-shot caught long grass and he walked away with no score for the hole.
Jules Wilson posted 41 points, off a 21-handicap, to win the amateur’s top nett prize, two points ahead of runner-up five-handicapper Emma Leslie. The gross award was collected by former pro, Paul Cutler, who posted a one-under-72.

PGA Ulster Golfers’ Alliance Tournament, supported by Golf Now, at Castlerock

Professionals: 68 (-5) – R Kilpatrick (Banbridge), G Shaw (Moyola Pk).
72 – W Ramsey (Knockbracken).
73 – B McElhinney (Evolve Golf Coaching), C Loughrey (Castlerock), S Donnelly (Castle Hume), C Carvill (Belvoir Pk).
Amateurs: Nett, 41 pts – J Wilson 21 (Shandon Pk).
39 – Emma Leslie 5 (Moyola Pk).
38 – M Holmes 12 (Castlerock) … 3rd;
38 – O Mullan 4 (Castlerock) … 4th.
Gross, 72 (-1) – P Cutler +1 (Royal Portrush).
Team: 90 pts – Pro B Wilson with amateurs J Wilson 21, L Hale 21 & G Hamill 13 (all Shandon Pk)

with thanks to Tony McGee

Moyvalley Resort to stage 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open qualifier

March 18, 2019

The 10th at Moyvalley

Moyvalley Hotel and Golf Resort will host this year’s €40,000 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open qualifier (June 29-30).
The 36-hole tournament, administered by the PGA in Ireland, will be staged at the Co.Kildare venue with four starting places in the $7,000,000 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Lahinch Golf Club (July 4-July 7) up for grabs.
PGA in Ireland Regional Manager, Michael McCumiskey said; “As we plan for the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open qualifier it is great news that we have been able to secure Moyvalley for this year’s event.
“In 2016 and 2017 the venue hosted the Irish PGA Championship and it proved to be a real test of golf for our professionals.

“This year, with four spots available at Lahinch and prize money of €40,000 to be played for, there will be huge interest from professionals and amateurs alike all dreaming of a place in the Irish Open.”

The course at Moyvalley is described as an inland links as it takes on some of the features of a traditional seaside links course, with tall fescue grass, large putting surfaces featuring heavy contouring, runoffs and firm surfaces. It certainly produced two high-class Irish PGA champions in Damien McGrane (2016) and Tim Rice (2017).
“We are delighted to be chosen to host the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Qualifiers here at Moyvalley Hotel and Golf Resort and we very much look forward to welcoming all the competitors in what promises to be a great weekend of golf,” said David Rock, Director of Golf Moyvalley Hotel and Golf Resort
All PGA in Ireland members and registered assistants will be eligible to compete in the event. Six places in the field are open to amateur players nominated by the Golfing Union of Ireland. A further 12 spots will be filled by professional golfers selected by the European Tour.
Tulfarris Golf Resort’s Simon Thornton birdied the first extra hole to win last year’s inaugural Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Qualifier at Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort.
Neil O’Briain (Old Conna), Colm Moriarty (Glasson) and Cian McNamara (Monkstown GC) also claimed places in the field at Ballyliffin.
Competitors will be able to make use of an official practice day on Friday June 28.
In the case of a tie for the leading four players, a sudden death play-off will be used.

At Rosapenna (l-r) 2018 captain, Liam Breen; Michael McCumiskey(PGA in Ireland Regional Manager), Cian McNamara, Colm Moriarty, Simon Thornton, Neil O’Briain and John Casey (Director, Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Resort)


Nick Edmund takes Global Golf 4 Cancer campaign to Northern Ireland

March 6, 2019

Nick Edmund with Paul Hutchinson the men’s captain, Jackie Brown the ladies’s captain of the Lough Erne Golf Club and Leanne Rice (R) Head of Golf Marketing for Tourism Northern Ireland
(Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Nick Edmund is a man on a mission.
The 58 year old three-time head and neck cancer survivor wants the global golf community to ‘fly the flag’ and support cancer fighters worldwide.
In order to raise awareness of his ambitious ‘drive’ the barrister and golf writer – who also managed Faldo Design, Nick Faldo’s golf course design business for 15 years – is currently in the early stages of a 250-mile walk from Lough Erne Resort to Royal County Down.
The trek, complete with a set of golf clubs over his shoulder, will see Nick play the 4th hole at 18 Northern Ireland golf courses as he literally flies the flag for his Global-Golf4-Cancer charity.
“Through our distinctive Global-Golf4-Cancer ‘4-Flag’ and by encouraging golf clubs and event organisers to periodically fly this flag at the 4th hole of their courses we want to increase awareness and at the same time act as a catalyst for some imaginative fund raising opportunities,” said Nick who hopes the fact the 148th Open Championship is being played at Royal Portrush later this year will provide a fitting context for his awareness campaign.
Nick launched the 4-Flag campaign in March 2017 when he undertook a walk of almost 1,200 miles along the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland, carrying a set of golf clubs.

This month’s 250 mile walk is especially poignant for Nick as he has vivid memories of how The Faldo Championship course at Lough Erne Resort was conceived over a casual conversation in Spain some 15 years ago.
He added; “I recall well meeting the team that launched the Lough Erne Resort where they outlined their vision for a new golf course, and it’s been fabulous to see this vision being transformed into reality.

“My history with Lough Erne was probably one of the key reasons why we chose to commence our walk around Northern Ireland from there – plus some of the scenery throughout the golf course is out of this world.”

The epic Northern Ireland walk will be the third in a series undertaken by the Global-Golf4-Cancer founder to promote the campaign. With almost 1500 miles throughout the Wild Atlantic Way and Scotland already under his belt Nick plans to raise his flag on all six continents by the end of this year in pursuit of his global mission.
William Kirby General Manager of the Lough Erne Resort said: “We’re delighted and proud to be able to help tee-off this remarkable campaign and to host Nick at the start of his venture. Given Nick’s history with the Faldo Championship Course here – we were more than happy to provide our support and commit to flying the GG4C flag at our 4th hole during the year.”
Nick teed off his Northern Ireland campaign by playing four holes of The Faldo course at Lough Erne Resort on Saturday where he handed over a GG4C flag and then travelled from the 5-star resort to Killadeas via water taxi to begin his walk.
The Lough Erne to County Down campaign will highlight 18 of the country’s finest golfing venues from Lough Erne Resort to world famous Royal County Down at Newcastle and will include the likes of Castlerock, Portstewart, Royal Portrush, Malone, Royal Belfast and Ardglass.

Itinerary (Subject to change)
7 THU Play 4th@Newtownstewart GC then on to Strabane
8 FRI Strabane to Prehen, nr Derry;
9 SAT play 4th@Derry City GC Derry to Coleraine-Castlerock by train
10 SUN REST (possibly play 4th at Royal Portrush?)
STAGE 2: “Causeway Coast”- Castlerock to Carnlough
11 MON 4th@Castlerock GC then to Portstewart
12 TUES 4th@Portstewart GC then to Portrush
13 WED ((4th@Royal Portrush GC)) then via Giant’s Causeway and Bushmills to Ballintoy
14 THU Carrick Rope Bridge & the Dark Hedges picture opportunities; then to Ballycastle
15 FRI 4th @Ballycastle then to Cushendun
16 SAT Cushendun to Carnlough
17 SUN (St P’’s Day) REST
STAGE 3: “Belfast” – Lisburn to Bangor
18 MON Transport to Lisburn via 4th@Galgorm Castle GC
19 TUES 4th @Lisburn GC then to Malone area
20 WED 4th @Malone GC then to central Belfast
21 THU Titanic Exhibition 4th @Belvoir Park GC then via Shandon Pk GC? to central Belfast
22 FRI from Belfast to 4th@ Holywood via Knock GC? & Stormont Castle then to Culloden
23 SAT 4th@ Royal Belfast GC
24 SUN REST Leaf & Berry Cafe Jazz Bruch with SD Bells PM: To Bangor
STAGE 4: Clandeboye to County Down
25 MON 4th @Clandeboye GC then to Mount Stewart/Greyabbey
26 TUES Greyabbey (via Mount Stewart) to Kircubbin
27 WED Kircubbin via 4th @Kirkistown Castle GC then on to Portaferry
28 THU Portaferry to Ardglass
29 FRI 4th @Ardglass then to Tyrella
30 SAT Final walk from Tyrella to Newcastle
31 SUN 4th @Royal Co Down GC

PGA Fourball teams go low at Royal Portrush

March 2, 2019

The 18th at the Valley Course, Royal Portrush

Four pairs posted scores of six-under-par 65 to share first place at the PGA Northern Branch Fourball Betterball tournament played over the Valley Links at Royal Portrush.
The format has been added to the season’s schedule and a similar outing will be held at Lough Erne Resort on Tuesday, April 9. Given the positive response, there is a distinct possibility that a list of the events will be added into the new 2019-2020 fixture list.
The Enniskillen combination of Shaun Donnelly (Castle Hume) and David Allen (Lough Erne Resort) was first to set the target at 65 with Donnelly’s eagle three on the 16th hole being the deciding factor.
Gary Wardlow (Spa) and David Hughes (Massereene) were next in with 65 but will rue a bogey four on the 17th where both missed the green and failed to get up and down.
Moyola Park’s Gareth Shaw and Banbridge pro, Richard Kilpatrick, had a similar fate at the par three 15th hole which prevented them from taking the outright lead while the seasoned pair of Peter Hanna (Lurgan) and Paul Stevenson (Portadown) proved once again that age is no barrier to success.
Hanna is, of course, the PGA Captain Elect and the pair were anxious to make it known that their combined ages totted up to 113! Who said golf was a young man’s game.

PGA Northern Branch Fourball Betterball Tournament at Royal Portrush (Valley)
65 (-6) – S Donnelly (Castle Hume) & D Allen (Lough Erne Resort).
65 – G Wardlow (Spa) & D Hughes (Massereene).
65 – G Shaw (Moyola Pk) & R Kilpatrick (Banbridge).
65 – P Hanna (Lurgan) & P Stevenson (Portadown).
66 – G Graham (Groomsport DR) & C Lyall (Donaghadee).
66 – R Whitford (Knock) & N Grant (Blackwood).

Info courtesy of Tony McGee

Claret Jug takes centre stage during schools’ visit

February 26, 2019

The Claret Jug, golf’s most iconic trophy, visited local schools in Coleraine and Ballymoney ahead of The 148th Open being played at Royal Portrush as a thank you to pupils who will be employed as litter pickers during the Championship.
Around 250 pupils led by around 30 teachers from Coleraine Grammar School, Loreto College and Dalriada School will ensure that Royal Portrush looks its very best for the tens of thousands of visitors who will pour through its gates when The Open returns to the famous Dunluce Links in July.
The pupils were given the opportunity to get up close to the Claret Jug and have their picture taken with the trophy today, while they will also receive tickets to attend The Open and merchandise from official supplier Hugo Boss.
Richard Beggs, Teacher at Coleraine Grammar School, said, “The pupils and I are really excited about joining the thousands of people involved in helping to stage The Open each year and we look forward to welcoming fans and visitors to the town of Portrush in July.”
Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, Executive Director – Championships at The R&A, said, “It’s fantastic to see that there is great excitement about the prospect of The Open coming to Royal Portrush and we are very thankful to people living in the local communities in and around Portrush for their support. We are looking forward to enjoying a true celebration of golf in July.”
The Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council Councillor Brenda Chivers said, “There’s a real sense of excitement among the young people involved in today’s visit and it’s inspiring to see them so engaged and enthusiastic about The Open.
“Tens of thousands of visitors will travel here to enjoy the event in July and I have no doubt that their experience on the course, matched by our warm welcome, first class hospitality and unrivalled scenery will create an occasion to remember for everyone involved.”