Quartet secure Open Championship spots at SMBC Singapore Open

January 21, 2019

Jazz Janewattananond, Yoshinori Fujimoto, Doyeob Mun and Prom Meesawat secured their places in The 148th Open after qualifying at the SMBC Singapore Open.
The SMBC Singapore Open was played over the Serapong Couse at Sentosa Golf Club and was the third event in The Open Qualifying Series, which gives golfers around the world opportunities to book their place at Royal Portrush from 14-21 July 2019.
Janewattananond posted a fantastic final round 65 that included seven birdies to triumph at the SMBC Singapore Open for the first time, his third and biggest ever win on the Asian Tour, and clinch the first qualifying place for The Open.
The 23-year-old from Thailand finished on an 18-under-par total of 266 and he will now make his second appearance in The Open after qualifying for the first time at last year’s SMBC Singapore Open when he earned a spot at Carnoustie.
“Playing in The Open last year was a huge moment in my career and I’m so happy to have qualified again by winning the Singapore Open,” said Janewattananond.

“Getting a place in The Open is the best and I am looking forward to Royal Portrush now. I have heard it is tough and it will be a challenge so I will need to prepare well.”

Yoshimori and Englishman Paul Casey, who had already secured his starting berth at Royal Portrush, finished two shots behind Janewattananond in a tie for second place on a 16-under-par total of 268.
The 29-year-old from Japan sealed the second available place on offer for The Open this week after carding a 68 during today’s final round. He will also make his second appearance in golf’s original championship following his debut at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2012.
Matthew Fitzpatrick finished in fourth place on a 14-under-par total of 270 and has already qualified for The Open meaning that Doyeob Mun and Prom Meesawat earned the two remaining qualifying places after completing the tournament in a tie for fifth place on nine-under-par, a total of 275.
Mun will make his debut in The Open at Royal Portrush, his first ever major championship appearance, despite posting a final round 72, while Meesawat made a vital birdie putt on the 72nd hole to qualify for the Championship for the first time since 2011 at Royal St George’s.
The next event in The Open Qualifying Series will be the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard at Bay Hill from 7-10 March.


Moyola Park’s Shaw claims first win as a professional at Castlerock

January 10, 2019

Gareth Shaw grabbed his first win as a professional at the opening Ping Ulster Golfers’ Alliance event of 2019.
The Moyola Park professional posted a four-under-par 69 at Castlerock, despite starting his round with a bogey five when he overshot the first green.
That one of only two mistakes that the former North of Ireland Amateur champion made during his round, the other coming at the short 14 when he failed to get up down for par out of a bunker.
Gareth began his climb to the top of the leaderboard with a birdie at the par four second following an excellent chip and putt. He pencilled in another three at the next – this time an eagle – rolling in a 40-footer after a drive and an eight iron approach.
At the par five fifth a drive and nine iron approach was followed by another tidy chip to secure his second birdie of the front nine as Lurgan man turned in three-under-33.
The winner got down from 12 feet for birdie at the long 11th and then ran in a huge 50-feet putt for birdie three at 12 but his putting touch deserted him on the 14th.
That saw Gareth back in 36 for a winning round of 69 which was four strokes better than joint second placed Brian McElhinney (Evolve Golf Coaching) and Gary Chambers (Killymoon GC), Gary Wardlow (Spa GC) and Gary McNeill (Royal Portrush GC).
The amateurs’ top nett award went to Whitehead six-handicapper Davy Moore with 43 points while former professional Paul Cutler (Royal Portrush) won the gross prize with a 71.
PGA captain-elect Peter Hanna plus Lurgan amateurs Joe Dowey and Ryan Mathews along with Derek McConnell (Massereene) won the team event, carding 93 points.
The next outing with be at Royal County Down next Tuesday and will be followed by the UGA annual meeting.

PING PGA Ulster Golfers’ Alliance scoreboard

Ping PGA Ulster Golfers’ Alliance Tournament at Castlerock
Leading scores
Professionals: 69 (-4) – G Shaw (Moyola Pk).
72 – B McElhinney (Evolve Golf Coaching), G Chambers (Killymoon), G Wardlow (Spa), G McNeill (Royal Portrush).
73 – C Carvill (Belvoir Pk).
74 – D Hughes (Massereene), P Farrell (Laganview), N Grant (Blackwood).

Amateurs: Nett, 43 pts – D Moore 6 (Whitehead).
41 – K Gilliland 17 (Castlerock).
40 – G McGrotty 3 (Royal Portrush) … 3rd on back nine, J Dowey 7 (Lurgan).
Gross, 71 (-2) – P Cutler (Royal Portrush).

Team: 93 pts – Pro P Hanna (Lurgan) with amateurs J Dowey 7, R Mathews 18 (both Lurgan) & D McConnell 7 (Massereene).

With thanks to Tony McGee

Back to the drawing board for Team NI following defeat in 2018 Writer Cup

January 6, 2019

News from the front and brace yourself, it’s not good. The Writer Cup returned south of the border in 2018. I know, tragic news…..
Three in a row proved to be a step too far for Team NI in the ninth edition of the Writer Cup – the Ryder Cup style event hosted by Tourism NI that pitches Northern Ireland journalists against Republic of Ireland journalists.
Was it a case of overconfidence? Did Irish amateur international Colm Campbell tip the balance at Warrenpoint with some helpful advice for Team RoI? Either way, a poor display in the fourballs at a sun-drenched Ardglass Golf Club set the home team on the road to defeat.
With Team RoI leading 3-1, the teams decamped to Newcastle for dinner at the award-winning Brunel’s Restaurant followed by an overnight stay in the iconic Slieve Donard Hotel.
The teams lined up on day two at Warrenpoint Golf Club and briefly, it seemed that a shock turn around was on the cards. Team NI had got off to a bright start in the eight singles matches and the destination of the trophy was very much in the balance until midway through the back nine.
Eventually, Team RoI’s superior strength in depth paid off and by halving the singles series 4-4 they were able to seal a 7-5 success and take the overall winning tally to 6-3.
It’s back to the drawing board for Team NI in 2019 as we look ahead to the 10th anniversary event. Is it time for new faces? New captaincy? Or better still, new handicaps?

Ardglass GC
A venue on the up, Ardglass’s stunning cliff top vistas are attracting attention from golfers all over the world. Home to former Walker Cup and Challenge Tour player Cormac Sharvin, Ardglass hugs the coastline, with no fewer than eight holes where the Irish Sea coastline comes into play.
The Irish Sea is visible from all 18 tees and greens and on a clear day, it is possible to see across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man.
On a windy day and it’s very rare for there not to be a breeze, Ardglass offers a stern test of golf.
The course is currently undergoing phase three of a long-term development plan under the watchful eye of Ken Kearney Design.
New bunkers have been installed on a number of holes, and old bunkers have been upgraded and remodelled. A fabulous driving range was created and opened in time to host players competing at the 2018 British Girls Amateur Championship.

Warrenpoint GC
Warrenpoint has a superb reputation for producing top-class golfers. Amongst the star names to have learned their trade on the tree-line parkland course are Paddy Gribben, Colm Campbell, Raymond Burns and former European Tour number one, Ronan Rafferty.
Overlooking Carlingford Lough Warrenpoint’s tight fairways put a premium on accuracy over power and recent improvements to the condition of the greens have produced some rave reviews.
The par four 7th is a case in point where finding the right spot on the fairway is paramount to ease the approach into a well-protected green. Also, the extremely tight 12th and 13th holes are two par fours to test the most skilled of golfers.
The course has accommodated several professional events over the years including the Irish Professional Championship and the 2003 BT Ladies Open won by Sweden Sophie Gustafson.

Team RoI (left) and Team NI before the start of the 2018 Writer Cup at Ardglass GC




Meadow crowned IGWA 2018 Professional of the Year

December 16, 2018

Stephanie Meadow’s impressive display of guts and determination
 in returning from serious injury to regain her full LPGA Tour card for 2019 has earned her the Professional Player of the Year Award for 2018 from the Irish Golf Writers’ Association, sponsored by Allianz.
The Jordanstown born Meadow, now resident in the United States, is the first woman to win the award since its inception in 1976.
The 26-year-old suffered a stress fracture (L5) in her spine during the 2017 season but was unable to avail of a medical exemption on the LPGA Tour. She underwent surgery and endured over four months of rehabilitation to resurface with renewed conviction in 2018.
Playing on the Symetra Tour, Stephanie produced an exceptionally consistent run of results. She won the IOA Championship, had nine top-10s during the year and earned her full LPGA Tour card by finishing sixth on the order of merit.

“I am so honoured and so humbled to have won the Professional Golfer of the Year. I was knocked on my face a little bit last year and to come out and have such a great season and to top it off by being recognised as the Professional Golfer of the Year is truly remarkable.

“I have a lot of people to thank. To the ILGU, girls golf has come a long way in the last 10 years and to win this award on behalf of them is unbelievable. Their training programmes have made me the golfer I am today. I have a lot of people in my corner who I would like to thank,” said Stephanie
“My coaches, my sports psychologist, my fitness trainer who made me healthy again and my family and close friends, who picked me up this past year and got me through it.”

2018 Allianz Irish Golf Writers Association Awards, Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links, Dublin 13/12/2018 Damian O’Neill, Allianz, Sara Byrne – Women’s Amateur of the year, Robin Dawson, Men’s Amateur Golfer of the Year, Miriam Hand who received the Distinguished Services to golf award in honour of her work with the “Play in Pink” breast cancer charity and Paul Kelly, Chairman of the IGWA Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Oisin Keniry

Her award was accepted on her behalf at the awards dinner in Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links on Thursday night by Sinéad Heraty, chief executive of the Irish Ladies Golf Union.
Robin Dawson received the Men’s Amateur Player of the Year award following a standout final season as an amateur in which the 22-year-old Waterford man captured the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship at Royal Co Down in May, finished runner-up in the British Amateur Championship and was second in the European Amateur Championship.
Dawson, an equine business graduate from NUI Maynooth, turned professional following the World Amateur Team Championship and has earned his card for the Challenge Tour for the 2019 season.
Sara Byrne, 17, won the Irish Ladies’ Close Championship at Enniscrone and also finished runner-up in the Leinster Women’s Open Championship. The Douglas, Co Cork, teenager represented Ireland in the World Junior Championship, the European Girls’ Team Championship, the Home International Girls’ Championship and topped the ILGU Girls’ Order of Merit.
The Distinguished Services to Golf award was presented to Miriam Hand, who is the driving force behind the “Play in Pink” charitable initiative to raise funds in aid of Breast Cancer Research. The initiative has gone from strength to strength in recent years, raising more than €600,000 since 2011. In 2018 alone, in excess of €160,000 was raised at events throughout the country.
Irish golfing great, Eamonn Darcy, who recently announced his retirement from tournament golf was also honoured on the night for his contribution to the game.

Omagh born short game coach Gareth tips World Number One Ariya to dominate

December 8, 2018

He’s the Omagh born, Ontario based coach with the Polish family background who has helped guide Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn to the top of golf’s World Rankings.
At the last count, Gareth Raflewski estimates he worked with over 30 different players competing on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour in 2018.
The 38-year-old, who is married with two children, has carved out a niche as the ‘go-to’ short game coach on tour where his focus on scoring shots – chipping, putting, bunker play – has helped elevate Jutanugarn to a new level.
“I started with Ariya about three years ago. It was kind of fun, she was 66th in the world and she wasn’t the player everyone knows now,” said Raflewski.
“I got to see her get to world number one the first time around (2017), struggle a bit and now get back to world number one as a better player. It has been a really fun ride.
“She is phenomenal around the greens and a fantastic wedge player. We have worked a lot on her bunker game because it was so-so and now it is coming up to match the rest of her game.
“Her putting has just got better and better and she finished the 2018 season ranked number one in putts per greens in regulation. With her length off the tee, that’s a deadly combination. If you have a player with all that power who can putt, it’s a licence to print money.”

Gareth grew up playing golf in Omagh and dreamed of competing as a tour professional but his parents had other ideas.
“I wanted to go to Tour Q-School when I was 18 but my parents insisted I got an education so I ended up putting it off and went to John Moores University in Liverpool to study engineering,” added Gareth who was recently crowned the 2018 PGA of Ontario Teacher of the Year.

“I actually worked as an engineer for a year but, once I had the degree completed, I was off and competed on the Challenge Tour and Europro Tour. I then came out and played on the Canadian Tour. Eventually, after my playing career finished, I joined the PGA of Canada.”

Gareth started focusing specifically on the short game around 2005 and gradually built up a reputation for producing results. Currently based at River Bend GC in London, Ontario where he is the Director of Instruction, Gareth also spends some time in Florida, avoiding the harsh Canadian winters.
“I was living and working in Toronto at the time and there were a lot of great coaches around – Sean Foley (Justin Rose’s coach) was just up the road – and I realised that I had to do something different,” added Gareth.
“I decided that I was just going to concentrate on the short game and it wasn’t long before I started working with a couple of decent players.
“Originally I was probably more interested in working on the PGA Tour or European tour but about five years ago I was contacted by an LPGA player,
“It was a great time. That player doubled her money on tour and then it just snowballed from there. Everybody just started getting better and I was getting more and more requests.
“I basically coach eight players on tour and then if I have time, I fit others in around that and I’m very happy at the minute.
“Ariya could have an Annika [Sorenstam] type of career. She is that good. If she plays well she will absolutely kill it. She is only 23 and is getting used to life in the spotlight. She could have one of those careers that goes down in history.
“So, for now, I am basically going to stick with the girls. Unless Rory McIlroy gives me a call. That might be a different story.”

Graham grabs Ping UGA Alliance outing win at Kirkistown Castle

November 30, 2018

Groomsport professional Gareth Graham eked out a one shot victory over Brian McElhinney (North West GC) in the latest Ping PGA Ulster Golfers’ Alliance outing.
Graham posted a three under par 66 in a round that included four birdies and one bogey.
After a steady par, par start to his round Gareth flew the green at the short par four third but got up and down for the opening birdie of his round. It was the only deviation from par on the outward trip which he covered in one-under-34.
However, he slipped back to level par when he missed the green at the par four 12th hole and failed to get up and down.
That was his only blip of the day and he birdied the 14th, 15th and 18th holes for an inward nine of 32. At the short 14th, the winner rifled a six iron to four feet for birdie two, at the next hole he steered a drive and wedge to two feet for birdie three and finished in style at the long last, after hitting the green with a drive and four iron.
Ardglass 17-handicapper Stephen Mooney topped the amateur’s leaderboard on 42 points while Chris Moulds, who plays off scratch out of Lisburn, took the gross prize with a neat four-under-65.
Ardglass pro, Paul Vaughan, and amateurs Des Connolly (12), Ryan Kelly (13) and Stephen Mooney (17) combined to post 92 points and win the team award.
The next UGA tournament will be the Christmas Jumper event at Castlerock on Tuesday, December 11.

Ping PGA UGA Outing, sponsored by Golf Now, at Kirkistown Castle
Professionals: 66 (-3) – G Graham (Groomsport Golf Centre).
67 – B McElhinney (North West).
68 – D Hughes (Massereene), P Farrell (Laganview), C Carvill (Belvoir Pk).
69 – C Lyall (Donaghadee).
70 – G Wardlow (Spa), A Mulhall (Ardglass), G Shaw (Moyola Pk), R Whitford (Knock).
Amateurs: 42 pts – S Mooney 17 (Ardglass).
41 – S Goldthorp 16 (Blackwood) … 2nd on countback.
41 – H McKee 20 (Knock) … 3rd on countback.
41 – J Johnston 8 (Belvoir Pk) … 4th on countback.
Team: 92 pts – Pro P Vaughan with amateurs D Connolly (12), R Kelly (13) & S Mooney (17) all Ardglass.

With thanks to Tony McGee



Ireland target defence of International Team Championship title in Greece

November 20, 2018

Joe Dillon, Damian Mooney and Colm Moriarty

New team, same ambition for the PGA in Ireland trio this week at the International Team Championship in Greece (Nov 20-23)
Last year David Higgins (Waterville), Mark Staunton (Delgany) and Simon Thornton (Tulfarris Resort) cruised to a massive 16 shot victory to collect Ireland’s third ITC title.
For 2018, Damian Mooney (Damian Mooney Golf), Joe Dillon (Headfort) and Colm Moriarty (Glasson Hotel & GC) will hope to successfully defend that title at Costa Navarino.
The vastly experienced Mooney will lead the side this time out. A veteran of numerous ITC campaigns, Mooney first competed in the event back in 1992 alongside David Jones and Geoff Loughry. In 1998 he captained a winning PGA of Ireland side featuring Robert Giles and Damien McGrane.
“It’s always a great week. Normally we are playing against each other but you’re playing as a team so it is different,” said Damian.
“You never know how the other lads are doing and with two scores out of three to count, there is always that pressure on you.”
In contrast, Headfort’s Joe Dillon will be making his debut in the event and admits he has played precious little team golf.
“I have only ever represented Headfort. As an amateur I never got picked for any of the Leinster teams and I never played for Ireland before I turned professional,” said the 26-year-old.
“We have a good team, both Colm and Damian are very experienced at playing in these types of events. Personally, it was great to get on the team and it has definitely given me something to work towards at this time of the year.”
Meanwhile. Simon Thornton (Tulfarris Golf Resort), David Higgins (Waterville) and Michael McGeady (Evolve Golf Coaching) are in Turkey preparing for the PGA Play-Offs at Antalya GC (Nov 21-23).
The three-round tournament, won by Niall Kearney (Royal Dublin) in 2014, sees some of the UK and Ireland’s top PGA Pros compete for European and Challenge Tour starts in 2019.
The winner will collect £3,500 with players finishing in the top four qualifying for next season’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in September.

International Team Championship scoreboard

PGA Play-offs leaderboard

Michelle and Zoe’s big Kenyan golf adventure

November 19, 2018

A chance meeting at last January’s PGA Show in Orlando set teaching professional Zoe Allen on course for a ‘growing the game’ expedition to Kenya.
Last month the 30-year-old, in partnership with US based LPGA professional, Michelle Holmes, spent two-weeks in Nairobi and isn’t ruling out a return visit.
“Michelle has already jokingly suggested that we could do a trip like this every year,” said Zoe.
“It definitely opened our eyes a bit. Great as it is to be running my own golf school, it was nice to do something for the wider game of golf, to give something back.”
The impetus for the visit came from a brief discussion Zoe and Michelle had with Kenyan based US Kids’s Golf coach, Emanuel Kasio, at the PGA Show.
“He simply said ‘have you ever thought of coming over’?” added Lurgan Golf Club based Zoe, at U.S. Kids Top 50 Golf Coach.
“We decided it would be a great opportunity to experience something different, a new coaching experience. We took some time out of our schedules and away from our businesses.

“This was self-funded, there was no payment. We just wanted to see if we could do something positive.”

The pair also travelled out laden down with donated equipment and gifts.
“When people heard I was going out, a few bits and bobs started to arrive in. I hadn’t given it any thought, I hadn’t asked for any donations at that stage,” said Zoe.
“So I thought, ‘let’s see what else we can bring out’ and fired off an email for any old junior gear. I ended up taking out four extra travel golf bags of equipment to leave out in Kenya.”

Kasio has created a golf programme that covers both state-funded and private schools and clubs. The coaching work he does with his more wealthy participants allows him to offer free coaching in some of the less affluent areas of the city.
“To be honest, we had our best experiences in the state-run schools,” continued Zoe.
“We spent some time at the Great Rift Valley Golf Resort. It was beautiful, a fantastic facility but that’s the type of environment we are used to.
“Some of the state schools don’t have regular electricity supplies. There are 60 kids in a class and the classrooms aren’t big but the children really enjoyed the coaching sessions.
“At one of the schools we hosted a skills challenge and it was treated as a full school sports day, all the other children who didn’t take part directly were allowed to come out and watch. Given the chance, we’d have spent all our time there.”

Whitford makes it three wins on the bounce at Ardglass Alliance event

November 13, 2018


l-r – Richard Kilpatrick, Ricky Whitford (Knock), Phil Posnett (PGA), Lucy Simpson (Golf Now)

Knock professional Ricky Whitford chalked up his third consecutive success when he stormed to the top of the leaderboard in the Ping PGA Ulster Golfers’ Alliance outing, supported by Golf Now, at Ardglass.
Whitford bagged eight birdies in a super 65 with three bogeys and seven pars also on his card.
He made a strong start, firing a wedge shot to within inches at the first for an opening birdie but then recorded back-to-back bogey fives at the third and fourth holes.
He got back to level par on the sixth when he rolled home a 20-footer, holed another birdie putt at seven and polished off his opening nine holes with a birdie at the par five.
His final bogey came at the par three 10th hole where he was short and failed to get up and down but a birdie four at the long 11th got him going again.
The winner finished strongly by collecting a hat-trick of birdies at the 15th, 16th and 17th to finish two shots ahead of local assistant pro Adam Mulhall.
Ever present Massereene 11-handicapper Vincent McCaffrey won the amateur’s nett prize on 44 points with host club captain, Peter Deeny, second on 41.
Irish international Lucy Simpson (Royal Portrush) outshot her male challengers to win the amateur’s gross award with one-over-par 71.
The winning team members were all from Shandon Park as pro, Barry Wilson, plus amateurs Julian Wilson (Barry’s brother), Laurence Hale and Guy Hamill combined to post 92 points. They won on countback from Whitford’s team.
The next tournament will be at Kirkistown Castle on Monday, November 26.

Ulster Golfers’ Alliance – Ardglass leaderboard 

Selected scores
Ping Ulster Golfers’ Alliance, supported by Golf Now, at Ardglass
Professionals: 65 (-5) – R Whitford (Knock).
67 – A Mulhall (Ardglass),
70 -B McElhinney (North West), P Farrell (Laganview Golf Centre), R Kilpatrick (Banbridge).
71 – G Wardlow (Spa). P McCarroll (Allen Pk).
Amateurs: Nett 44 pts – V McCaffrey 11 (Massereene).
41 – P Deeny 9 (Ardglass Captain).
40 – J Ross 6 (Donaghadee).
39 – J Savage 17 (Dunmurry).
Gross, 71 (+1) – Lucy Simpson scr (Royal Portrush).
Team: 92 pts – Pro B Wilson with amateurs J Wilson 21, L Hale 21 & G Hamill 13 (all Shandon Pk) on countback from Ricky Whitford’s team.

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Whitford putts in winning performance at Shandon Park

November 6, 2018

Ricky Whitford’s putting was well-nigh perfect at Shandon Park as he shot to the top of the leaderboard in the Ping Ulster Golfers’ Alliance tournament.
The winner, who finished one stroke clear of second-placed Brian McElhinney, slotted home a 30 footer on the first for a birdie. He added another birdie at the long third hole from 25 feet after steering a drive and five iron to the surface.
Dropped shots at the fourth and fifth halted his progress and he proceeded to par the next 11 holes. On the 17th green he rolled in a 15-footer to get back under par for the day.

Regular competitor Andy Adair (Clandeboye) won the amateur’s nett prize after squeezing out Carrickfergus member Tommy Lyttle on the back nine as they both posted 37 points.
The top gross prize went to Holywood scratch player Simon Irwin who carded one-over-par 71.
Second-placed professional Brian McElhinney (North West) brought in the winning team on 86 points with the amateur members, all from the Greencastle club in Donegal, being Paul Ferguson, Willie Havlin and Jason McLaughlin.
The next UGA event will be played at Ardglass on November 12.

Ping UGA Tournament at Shandon Park
Professionals: 69 (-1) – R Whitford (Knock).
70 – B McElhinney (North West).
71 – P Farrell (Laganview Golf Centre), N Grant (Blackwood).
72 – G Graham (Groomsport Golf Centre), G Wardlow (Spa), W Ramsey (Knockbracken Golf Academy).

Amateurs: Nett, 37 pts – A Adair 3 (Clandeboye) … 1st on back nine;
37 – T Lyttle 10 (Carrickfergus) … 2nd on back nine.
36 – J McLaughlin 4 (Greencastle) … 3rd on back nine;
36 – A Hall 12 (Donaghadee) … 4th on back nine.
Team: 86 pts – Pro B McElhinney (North West) with amateurs P Ferguson 9,. W Havlin 6 & J McLaughlin 4 (all Greencastle).

With thanks to Tony McGee