Shaw edges out Wardlow to wrap up second Festival of Golf success at Castlerock

September 17, 2019

A very old picture of Gareth Shaw (circa 2013)

Gareth Shaw likes the Festival of Golf tournaments.
He was joint first at Spa earlier this month but no-one could match him at Castlerock where he carded a two-under-par 71 to head off Spa professional Gary Wardlow by one shot.
Shaw (Moyola Park), was early into his stride at the fourth as he rolled in a 15-footer for birdie two, after a seven-iron approach to the green. He then backed that up with a drive and nine iron to the front of the fifth and got down in two putts for a birdie four.

However, his charge was halted when he missed the seventh green and failed to get up and down, pencilling in bogey five but the lost ground was immediately recovered at the next hole when he rolled home a 16-footer for birdie three to turn in two-under-par 34.
The 33-year-old picked up another shot at the long 11th hole with a drive and seven iron to the fringe and two putts before dropping another shot at the 12th. Six pars followed to be home in regulation 37 and a round of 71.
Local assistant pro, Chris Loughrey led home the winning team, which included his father Paul, Dom Higgins and Stephen McMullan.
They posted 89 points, two ahead of second-placed pro winner Gareth Shaw and third Neil Graham plus their amateur partners, all from Castlerock.

Castlerock Festival of Golf
Professionals: 71 (-2) – G Shaw (Moyola Pk).
72 – G Wardlow (Spa)
73 – A Cathers (Ardglass)
74 – B McElhinney (Evolve Golf Coaching), D Mooney (Damian Mooney Golf), B MacKay Castlerock).
Team: 89 pts – Pro C Loughrey with amateurs P Loughrey 13, D Higgins 12 & S McMullan 12 (all Castlerock).
87 pts – Pro G Shaw (Moyola Pk) with amateurs G Thompson 6, N Thompson 13 & P Dobson 15 (all Castlerock) 2nd on countback.
87 pts – Pro N Graham (Portstewart) with amateurs T Trainor 13, S Humphries scr & o Mullan 4 (all Castlerock).


Festival of Golf success for Kilpatrick and Shaw at Spa GC

September 8, 2019

The Ulster Golfers’ Alliance teed off the new season with the Spa Festival of Golf, the first of two such events during the season with the other being at Castlerock (Sept 16).
According to secretary Phil Posnett, the emphasis was all on enjoyment before the competition gets underway for real with the first Alliance outing scheduled for Lurgan GC on Oct 17.
“The Festival of Golf is a shotgun start competition with tee-off in mid-afternoon and it is designed to be more relaxed than the usual Ulster Golfers’ Alliance events. The professionals all get something for entering and of course, there are the usual prizes,” said the organising secretary.
It was certainly fun for Richard Kilpatrick and Gareth Shaw as they shared top of the professionals’ leaderboard with 34 points, two ahead of Adam Mulhall.
Banbridge pro Kilpatrick started his round at the seventh tee and dropped a shot at the short eighth where he was over the green. A birdie three from 15 feet brought him back to regulation but he then had bogeys at the 10th, 12th and 13th holes before birdie four at 15, where he reached the green with a drive and six iron, and a two at the short 17th from five feet gave him a round of two-over-par 74.
Shaw teed off at the fourth hole and opened with a birdie three having driven the green. He missed the green at the next to give back the shot he had gained but birdied the short eighth from 15 feet.
Bogey five at the ninth was followed by birdie three, from 15 feet, at 11 before a three-putt cost the Moyola Park pro a stroke. A 12 foot birdie three at 14 was cancelled out by bogey four at 17, where he overshot the surface, and he double-bogeyed 18 after driving into trees.

Spa Festival of Golf
Professional Leading Scores:
34 pts – R Kilpatrick (Banbridge), G Shaw (Moyola Pk).
32 – A Mulhall (Ardglass).
30 – S Crooks (Holywood), S Donnelly (Castle Hume), B McCoy, P Collins, R McCormack (Holywood).
29 – P Hanna (Lurgan).
28 – C Bell (Ardee).

Tim Rice claims Walled City of Derry and Strabane Pro-Am crown

August 26, 2019

Tim Rice

Tim Rice (Limerick GC) held off a couple of Challenge Tour regulars to win the Walled City of Derry & Strabane Pro-Am.
The event, sponsored by Bishop’s Gate Hotel and Frylite and supported by Derry City and Strabane District Council saw 41 teams (one professional and three amateurs) competing over 36-holes.
Tim began with a round of 66 (-3) at City of Derry Golf Club and followed up with a 67 (-2) at Strabane Golf Club to finish the tournament on five under par and beat Jonathan Caldwell (Clandeboye GC) by two shots.
Rice was in contention after two rounds of the recent Irish PGA Championship but struggled on the final day eventually finishing tied fifth.
After a quiet start to his opening round at City of Derry, he sprung into life on the back nine, carding four birdies in his closing seven holes. At Strabane, a double-bogey six at the par-four ninth threatened to derail his challenge but he fought back with three birdies on the back nine to post his five-under total.
“A nice couple of days. Both courses are very challenging. Strabane was tough, tight off the tee, small greens, fast and very challenging,” said the 42-year-old.

“A 67 was a good score around there. Both courses played long, it’s been so wet there was very little run on the ball.”

Another Challenge Tour regular, Ruaidhri McGee, and Colm Moriarty (Glasson Hotel) finished in a tie for third on two under par alongside Simon Thornton (Tulfarris Resort), Brian McElhinney (Evolve Golf Coaching) and David Higgins (Waterville Links)
Defending champion, Michael McGeady (Evolve Golf Coaching) carded rounds of 69/69 to finish in eighth place on level par.
David Higgins (Waterville Golf Links) and amateur partners S McCay, B Corry and George McCay claimed the team prize on countback with 175pts (89/86).

Walled City of Derry & Strabane Pro-Am scoreboard

Women professionals back playing in Ireland. It’s about bloody time.

August 13, 2019

Stephanie Meadow

Truth be told, this week’s ISPS Handa World Invitational Men/Women presented by Modest! Golf is a long-overdue boost for women’s golf in Ireland.
The tournament, formerly known as the NI Open, has been transformed into a new global event with men and women professionals competing for an equal share of a $500,000 prize fund at Galgorm Castle and Massereene Golf Club.
“It’s quite shocking really. I have been a pro for five years now and I still haven’t had a chance to play at home,” said LPGA player Stephanie Meadow who is relishing the chance to finally compete in front of family and friends.
“For a country like Ireland which has so many great courses and so many great players to not have an event is pretty astonishing.

Hopefully, this turns the page and there will be more to come.

“I can’t wait. I’m expecting to see people that I haven’t seen in a while. It’s just a great thing to be part of. I’m really from just down the road so I’m quite proud to be able to compete at all.”
It is impossible to deny that the ladies game, at the professional level, is underexposed in Ireland so if you sense just a hint of frustration in Stephanie’s words it’s perfectly understandable.
The last women’s professional event to be held in Northern Ireland was the imaginatively titled Northern Ireland Ladies Open at Hilton Templepatrick in 2007.
That tournament, won by England’s Lisa Hall, is notable for the emergence of two precocious young talents in Lisa and Leona Maguire who, now professionals, are returning to play this week.
The last Ladies Irish Open was held in 2012 when Catriona Matthew, the European Solheim Cup captain, who is also playing this week, triumphed at Killeen Castle.
Meadow is right, it has been too long and that grates with the 27-year-old who is an active and vocal ambassador for the ’20×20 – If she can’t see it, she can’t be it’ campaign.
She added; “I wish when I was 10 or 11 that I had someone to look up to, someone to point at and say, ‘if she can do it, I can do it’,
“It was a big guessing game for the rest of us really. There were some LET players but we didn’t know how it all worked.
“I feel strongly about it. I was lucky in my really early days when I was eight or nine. I was in a girls group. I felt comfortable when I was introduced to the game and I don’t think a lot of people are. If I hadn’t got that, would I be here today?
“Young girls might never have had the chance to see women professionals competing until now.
“If it affects a handful of girls that is ok. It doesn’t have to be thousands, if two girls get extra opportunities, that means the world to me.”

Lawlor takes another step forward, included in amateur field at ISPS Handa World Invitational

August 4, 2019

Brendan Lawlor

Brendan Lawlor is busy blazing a trail for disability golf with eye-catching results around the world and now the Dundalk sensation will tee it up in the ISPS Handa World Invitational Men | Women, presented by Modest! Golf at Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort.
The 22-year-old is the latest elite amateur to confirm his place in the first of its kind event in Europe where men and women will compete at the same venues at the same time with the professionals sharing equal prize money.
Lawlor has been in sensational form of late and recently won the inaugural EDGA Scottish Open after carding a final round 71 to win over the same Renaissance course professionals played the week before The Open at Royal Portrush.
“It’s been a great year which has really taken off in recent weeks,” enthused Lawlor, who is currently ranked fourth in the World Rankings for Golfers with Disability (WR4GD)
“Crazy but enjoyable, that’s how I would describe the run we are on at the moment. Winning in Scotland is definitely my biggest achievement to date. There is a big focus on disability golf and it’s great to see we are getting plenty of coverage around the world on Sky Sports and through social media.”
The EDGA Scottish Open was the first of two disability championships alongside Rolex Series events on the European Tour’s 2019 Race to Dubai schedule. Lawlor’s win means he qualifies for the EDGA Dubai Finale as part of the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates in November.
For now, Lawlor is focused on Galgorm and Massereene after receiving an invite through Niall Horan and Modest! Golf. He will also become an Official Ambassador for the tournament.
“I am very grateful to Niall and Mark (McDonnell) at Modest! Golf who invited me to play. It’s a great opportunity and will be a fun week, especially with my dad on the bag,” added the scratch golfer, who is a member of Dundalk Golf Club.

“I believe this will the first time a disability golfer will compete on the same stage over the same course as the professionals in a Challenge Tour event. That should generate a good bit of interest.

“It will be interesting to see how I play against the professionals. It will be a fun week for me. No pressure, just go out and enjoy it and it’s a great opportunity to showcase disability golf and how good it is.”
McDonnell, Modest! Golf Director, said: “We are delighted to have Brendan playing in this great event. Brendan has been shooting great scores for a long time, not least for his most recent win in Scotland. He has earned his place at Galgorm by continuing to compete at an elite amateur level.”
“Like ISPS Handa, we believe in the ‘Power of Sport’ and what Brendan is doing for disability golf epitomises that ethos. He is an inspirational character.”
Lawlor was born with Ellis van-Creveld Syndrome, a rare bone growth disorder that leads to shorter limbs. For years he competed at the top level of able-bodied golf. He has played alongside Irish international Caolan Rafferty for Dundalk in the Senior Cup and Barton Shield and this year was part of the club’s Barton Shield team that won the Leinster title and qualified for the GUI All-Ireland Cup & Shields finals.
Lawlor believes there is massive momentum for disability golf just now and is happy to play his part. “I know the tour and Keith Pelley are talking about a World Tour by 2021. There are lots of great things starting to happen. Inclusion is everything and it’s fantastic to be accepted.
“For so many professional golfers to see what we’re doing and accept that we can play with them, it’s fantastic. They can see our talent and that’s helping too,” said Lawlor after his Scottish win. He met Open Champion Shane Lowry, Paul Dunne, Ian Poulter and others when competing at the World Cup of Golf in Melbourne last year.
“I also met Dr Handa (ISPS Handa) in Melbourne. He was so interested in what we were doing. So many people took a genuine interest.”
Lawlor will be one of 22 elite amateurs set to compete in the ISPS Handa World Invitational Men | Women, presented by Modest! Golf. The event takes place from August 15-18 at Galgorm Castle and Massereene Golf Club.

Bamber urges caution over calls for quick return of The Open Championship to Royal Portrush

July 30, 2019

Shane Lowry had barely finishing holing out on the 18th before the clamour began for a swift return of The Open Championship to Royal Portrush.
Graeme McDowell, a believer in striking while the iron is hot, reacted to media reports of a possible 2024 staging by claiming it, ‘would help keep the Portrush train rolling’.
The R&A, as is their way, have been silent on the issue preferring to trot out the line about needing to assess the full impact of an event which is generally accepted to have been one of the most successful stagings in recent decades.
According to John Bamber (left), the now outgoing chairman of the Royal Portrush Open Championship committee, that silence was not by accident.
“I shook Martin Slumbers’ [R&A Chief Executive] hand on Sunday evening and we very purposefully agreed not to say anything,” said Bamber.
“It was the wrong time to discuss anything, given the great sense of excitement and euphoria.
“People need time to look at things sensibly and objectively.”
In contrast to McDowell, Bamber takes a more long term approach and sees an Open return in 2029 as time enough.
“If you do it too often, it loses that uniqueness, the special feeling,” he added.
“This is way different to an Irish Open or a Scottish Open and events of that scale.
“This is day and night, especially when you see it from the inside.
“It is a huge event and terrific. If you do it too soon, I think it might lose some of its appeal, its shine.

“I would be satisfied if I thought The Open was returning to Royal Portrush in 2029 and I would like to see two more in the next 20 years.”

In making his comments Bamber considered a number of factors including, the appetite of the membership at Royal Portrush, the R&A’s own plans and the current political inertia in Northern Ireland.
He also thinks that the recent Ryder Cup announcement will also have to be included in any future planning.
“We couldn’t be within a year ether side of that [the 2026 staging at Adare Manor]. It would just be too much for Ireland in relation to what we are trying to do,” he added.

Royal Portrush professional Gary McNeill makes the most of Open opportunity

July 22, 2019

Royal Portrush professional Gary McNeill Photo by John Dickson – DICKSONDIGITAL

The 148th Open Championship won’t be an experience that Royal Portrush professional Gary McNeill forgets any time soon after he stepped in to play as a marker on the weekend.
McNeill competed alongside Paul Waring on Saturday and Ashton Turner on Sunday and managed to break 80 on both days, not that anyone was counting.
“It has been incredible, I have really enjoyed it,” said the 49-year-old.
“It’s obviously a 50/50 shot. It might be an odd or even number of players who make the cut.

“It has been a dream week. To see the tournament come together and everything go so well and to play yesterday and today has been brilliant.”

Gary has been the professional at Royal Portrush for over 20 years and like every golfer dreamed of one day playing in The Open. He doesn’t play competitive golf very regularly and had little time to get ‘game’ ready before playing at the weekend, bar hitting a few shots on the range.
With that in mind, he still managed to play some steady golf while enjoying the cheers that greeted him onto every green and every tee box.
“The course looks brilliant and the grandstands, even today when it is not that nice, are filled with people as well,” he said after finishing out his round on Sunday.
“There is a real feel-good factor about this tournament. It is wonderful
“68 years was a long time for it to come back and I am sure the R&A will be looking to bring it back here again before too long.”

Fan fervour an Open dilemma for Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell

July 18, 2019

Tuesday Practice – Graeme McDowell on the seconnd tee during practice for the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush Golf Club, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Photo by John Dickson – DICKSONDIGITAL

To Ryder Cup or not to Ryder Cup, that is the question.
Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell seem to be taking vastly different approaches.
McDowell has accepted his role as the local hero with great grace and is hoping to use the good will and support to spur him on to success.
“The welcome I’ve received from the people this week has been epic. It’s been amazing. Just the pride level and the way people have responded and well-wishers and the support that I’m going to have,” said McDowell.
“I think the visual I have as a Ryder Cup, I’m trying to picture the crowd as a Ryder Cup crowd, that they’re all there to support me in a positive way. I need to use them positively and not see it as a negative thing; see it as a positive thing.”
McIlroy, meanwhile, is trying desperately hard not to get carried away by the huge interest and excitement that has been generated by the return of The Open after all these years.
“I don’t think this is anything like a Ryder Cup. You’re playing for yourself. It’s not the same. I wouldn’t want to turn this into a Ryder Cup mindset because I think that’s hard to sustain for four days,” he said.
“Again, I’m just treating this like any other Open Championship. I’ve played well here for the last few years. I’ve played well on this golf course.
“So I’ve just got to go out and hit the shots and stay in the present. If I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, hopefully by Sunday night that will be good enough.”
McIlroy has been trying, reasonably successfully, to come in under the radar this week. He knows how big an event this is, he knows how much it means to people but he doesn’t want to blow it up out of all proportion.
“I’ve sort of tried to keep it low key. I went for dinner last night and people are just coming up and saying good luck and have a great week,” he added.
“It’s very nice. If I’m honest, it hasn’t felt any different to any other Open Championship. I feel like I get great support no matter where I go.

“But up to this point the build up, it really hasn’t been much different, which has been a nice thing. It’s comforting in that way that it hasn’t felt any different.”

Wednesday Practice: – Rory McIlroy on the 18th during practice for the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush Golf Club Photo by John Dickson – DICKSONDIGITAL

In the past, Rory has spoken about how difficult he has found dealing with the expectations of playing in front of home fans at the Irish Open. It would seem logical that a home Open would only heighten those interest levels but he doesn’t see it like that.
“You’ve got the best players in the world here, and I don’t feel like I’m the centre of attention,” he added.
“I’m from Northern Ireland and I’m playing at home, but I don’t see myself as that center of attention, I guess. I’m here to enjoy myself. Hopefully, it doesn’t take another 68 years for the tournament to come back here.
“I mightn’t get an opportunity to play an Open Championship here again. You never know what happens. I’m really just treating it as a wonderful experience and one that I really want to enjoy.
“I’m going to love being out there and having the crowds and having the support. If that can’t help you, then nothing can.”
He continued; “I’ve always felt I’ve played my best golf when I’ve been totally relaxed and loose. And maybe that environment is what I need. I’m not saying that’s the way I’m going to approach it. I’m still going to try to go out and shoot good scores and concentrate and do all the right things.
“But at the same time, I can’t just put the blinkers on and pretend that’s not all going on.
“One of my sort of mantras this week is: Look around and smell the roses. This is a wonderful thing for this country and golf in general. And to be quite a big part of it is an honour and a privilege. And I want to keep reminding myself of that, that this is bigger than me; right? This is bigger than me.
“And I think if you can look at the bigger picture and you can see that, it sort of takes a little bit of the pressure off. I still want to play well and concentrate and do all the right things, but at the same time just having that perspective might just make me relax a little bit more.”

Ebert’s Dunluce handiwork will come under the microscope at The Open

July 15, 2019

The 148th Open – Sunday Practice
Tiger Woods playing into the 18th green during practice for the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush Golf Club, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Photo by John Dickson – DICKSONDIGITAL

This is it, the real test for Martin Ebert. Will The Dunluce course at Royal Portrush stand up to the scrutiny of the world’s best players?
Ebert’s changes, especially the new seventh and eighth holes have been widely acclaimed but the acid test will only come in tournament conditions.
“It’s all very well working on it, but every time you come to the site and make a decision about a bunker or a green contour you know the eyes of the world will be on it,” said Ebert on a recent visit to the North Coast.
“If it’s any other project, it’s just the members’ eyes on it but here, it will be the world’s best players and the media.”
When the R&A proposed bringing The Open back to Royal Portrush it was on the proviso that the members agreed to significant course changes, some of which were to create the space for the massive infrastructure involved in the event, others to tighten up the challenge for the players.
Ebert is considered a safe pair of hands by the R&A and his MacKenzie & Ebert design firm currently consults on five of the nine courses on The Open rota.

However, the renovations at Royal Portrush are much more extensive than the subtle changes that have been needed at venues like Royal Troon and Royal St George’s.
“I think the two big projects we have been involved in up to now has been Turnberry and Royal Portrush,” added Martin.
“At Turnberry, it was five new holes while here it’s two.
“Before we went to the members with our proposals we looked back on the evolution of the course and how the layout had changed over the years and especially since Harry Colt laid out his final design for the Dunluce Course in 1932.
“We found out that when Colt completed his design, the clubhouse was over 1,200 yards away from the present clubhouse in the town of Portrush. That changed the dynamic because we were able to say don’t worry members, it has changed before, it survived and you love it.

“The bottom line is that many courses that you think are natural are not. All the greens have been created and crafted and changed subtly over the years but it can be difficult when you are working on these old courses.

“One of the changes that we didn’t get through was opening up the stream across the 12th. There is a natural stream which was piped at some stage.
“If there was a stream in front of that green and it had been there for 150 years and we proposed to fill it in people would have said we were mad, because it, ‘makes the hole’.
“But when we propose opening it that’s considered too difficult and the R&A say no.
“You can understand the conservatism but that’s just some of what I have described when it comes to working on these great courses.”
The Portrush members voted overwhelmingly in favour of Ebert’s plans for the course which involved significant disruption during the construction phase which started back in 2014/2015.
The focus has naturally been on the creation of the two brand new holes but many other tweaks have also been made, the second green has been pushed back by almost 40 yards and further bunkering has been included.
Ebert continued; “I love 15 and I think the eighth [one of the new holes] is more interesting than the seventh [one of the new holes]. What will they do off the tee? They can a rescue or a three iron a leave themselves 200 yards in. They can hit three wood and flirt with the first bunker or they can really go for it with a driver. That second bunker was a late addition and was only included after Darren Clarke tested that hole.”
Now, with the Championship almost upon us, there’s nothing Ebert can do now but sit back, watch and wait for the players to have their say.

Sharvin takes another step in the right direction at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open

July 10, 2019

Not everyone is capable of launching themselves into professional golf like Matthew Wolff.
If there is still merit in gradual progression than Cormac Sharvin took another step on the ladder at the recent Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
The Ardglass golfer, without a win to his name as a professional and a regular on the Challenge Tour, finished the tournament as the leading Irish competitor, seven shots behind the eventual winner, Spain’s Jon Rahm.
“To be top Irishman this week is an honour for me. There’s some of the best players, like Shane Lowry is top-50 in the world and there’s a lot of good players from Ireland, so to be top Irishman is great,” said Cormac.
“Coming into this week I knew that I could compete with these guys and I tried to keep myself in that mindset all week and I proved that I can this week.”
A final round level par 71 at Lahinch may not have been the closing fireworks he had hoped for but, it earned him the biggest cheque of his career, some €85,000.
For a golfer struggling to make his way on the less lucrative Challenge Tour, this windfall could make all the difference as looks to build on his strong display in Co Clare.
“It’s obviously a bit of comfort. I always like to have a caddie, so that helps me get a caddie from now on. Caddies are expensive, but I don’t have to worry about that side of things. It’s a big help for sure,” said the 26-year-old.

“Obviously to compete with the best in the world is going to give me confidence going forward. In terms of my mindset, it’s something that I’ve worked really hard on the last year or so, and to see it hold up on the biggest stage is great.”

Calm and composed throughout the week, there was some signs of frustration at the end with ‘mistakes’ scuppering his chances of a really strong finish.
“I didn’t play much differently to what I had done in the first three days. I just got off to a bad start,” he added.
“I managed to pull it back and then just missed it a couples of times on the wrong side at the start of the back nine and made a few bogeys.
“I felt like I fought back pretty well from the start and handled myself pretty well out there today.
“I think that shows the work I’ve done off the course in terms of staying patient and not letting shots get me down.
“I just tried to stay really patient and take the next shot as it came. I got unlucky a few times today and I tried to concentrate on the next shot and I think I’ve done that really well.”

Sharvin finished well clear of more recognised players such as Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington but while they move on to the Scottish Open and The Open, he has returned to the Challenge Tour in France this week.
He continued; “If I can compete with the best in the world, I mean, I can definitely win on The Challenge Tour.  I think that’s the thing for me. Like I probably haven’t had everything this week, so for me to be able to compete, not having everything, it shows that I can stay out here.
“I already had huge confidence in getting my card this year. This is only going to add to that and hopefully, I can get off The Challenge Tour as soon as possible and get out competing with these guys.”