Archive for the ‘Golf’ Category

Paula Grant leads Irish contingent in Scotland with Curtis Cup selection looming

April 20, 2018

Paula Grant (Lisburn)
Picture by Pat Cashman

Leona Maguire won’t be featuring for GB&I in the Curtis Cup this year but Lisburn’s Paula Grant is hoping to nail down a place in the team at this week’s Helen Holm Scottish Women’s Open Championship in Troon (April 20-22).
The GB&I side to face the USA at Quaker Rider GC (June 8-10) will be named on April 26 so this is the last chance for Paula to impress the selectors and earn her spot on the team alongside Olivia Mehaffey (RCDL) who will get the nod courtesy of her world ranking.
A qualified optometrist, Paula is somehow managing to juggle her work commitments with competing at elite level. Already this year the 24-year-old has played in the South American Amateur Championship in Argentina finishing runner-up in a star-studded field.
That was followed by a trip to Portugal for the International Championship and in the worst of the weather, she finished 13th. The weather wasn’t much better during the Spanish Open when she tied seventh in qualifying before losing out in the match play stages to the eventual winner.
“I suppose the fact that the girl who beat me went on to win the title was something but it would have been nice to have done better,” said the reigning Irish Strokeplay champion.
Last month, Paula was on her travels again as she competed for Europe against Asia Pacific in the Patsy Hankins Trophy at Doha Golf Club. Europe were comprehensively beaten but the Curtis Cup selectors watched on as Paula won her singles match. However, Paula isn’t putting much store by that performance.

She continued; “There are a lot of good players out there, all with strong claims for selection. It really would be fantastic if I did get into the team but I can’t afford to just concentrate on that goal. I must keep playing as well as I can and let my form do the trick.”

The Helen Holm Trophy will consist of 54 holes of stroke play contested over three days with 18 holes played on each day. The top 66 players and ties returning the lowest scores after two rounds will qualify for the final round.
Twelve Irish players have travelled to Royal Troon to compete at the event – Ciara Casey (Hermitage/MU), Clodagh Walsh (Castlewarden/MU), Emma Forbes (Royal Portrush), Kate Dwyer (Rossmore), Lauren Walsh (Castlewarden), Lucy Simpson (Masserene), Maura Diamond (Royal Portrush), Meadhbh Doyle (Portarlington/MU), Paula Grant (Lisburn), Sara Byrne (Douglas), Shannon Burke (Ballinrobe), Valerie Clancy (Killarney).

Info courtesy of Tony McGee

Day Four – Master 2018 – Resolute Reed claims green jacket; Rory’s Grand Slam quest continues

April 9, 2018

2018 Masters Champion, Patrick Reed (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Patrick Reed claimed his maiden Major Championship title after holding off the charges of Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler to win the Masters Tournament.
Grand slam chasing Rory McIlroy entered the final day three shots behind the leader but he was never able to put any real pressure on the American and his challenge faded.
Loose off the tee and struggling on the greens Rory eventually signed for a two-over par 74 and finished the tournament in a tie for fifth.
“I played probably some of the best golf I’ve ever played here this week, it just wasn’t meant to be,” said Rory.
“Of course it’s frustrating and it’s hard to take any positives from it right now but at least I put myself in a position, that’s all I’ve wanted to do.
“For the last four years I’ve had top tens but I haven’t been close enough to the lead. Today I got myself there, I didn’t quite do enough but I’ll still come back next year and try again.

“I think 100% I can come back and win here. I’ve played in two final groups in the last seven years, I’ve had five top tens, I play this golf course well. I just haven’t played it well enough at the right times.

“I can’t give a good answer as to what I can take from this into the future but I’ll sit down and reflect over the next few days and see what I could have done better.”
Although the Holywood golfer’s chances ended in disappointment, Augusta National still produced plenty of final day drama.

The 2015 Masters Champion Spieth was the first to test the nerve of the overnight leader Reed, threatening the course record with a remarkable streak of nine birdies in the opening 16 holes, including four in five from the 12th.
An unfortunate break on the final hole though, where his drive clipped the trees mid-air and dropped just short of 180 yards from the tee in the rough, spoiled his chances as a bogey five meant he had to settle for an eight-under 64 and a 13 under total.
Next up was Fowler, who birdied the last to post a 14 under total after a five under 67, but Reed stayed resilient the whole way through and a two-putt par at the last for a one under 71 was enough to clinch a one-stroke triumph on 15 under par.

“I knew it was going to be tough. Any time trying to close off a golf tournament is really hard, but to close off your first Major and to do it at a place that is so close to me,” said Reed.
“I knew that the lead was going to shrink at sometimes, I knew the lead could grow, it’s just the flows of golf. You just have to know how to handle it and the only way I felt like I could get that done was to make sure the putter was working.

“It was tough out there but to be able to make that putt on 14 and then to make the two-putt on 17, it just gave me that momentum going to 18 which in the past has given me so many issues.

“It’s almost impossible to put into words. Just to make the par on the last and watch the ball go in the hole and know that I’ve won my first Major. One of my huge goals this year was to not only contend in Majors but also get back in that winning circle. To do it in the first Major and finish off that drought, it just meant so much to me.”

Day Three – Masters 2018 – Rory trails Reed by three ahead of Sunday showdown

April 8, 2018

Rory McIlroy celebrates making eagle on the eighth hole during the third round of the 2018 Masters Tournament
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy will reprise their epic 2016 Ryder Cup clash at Hazeltine when they lock horns in the final group of the 2018 Masters.
The first Major of the season was billed as one of the most eagerly anticipated in many years and the event is certainly living up to the hype, especially on an enthralling moving day which saw Reed, McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood all shoot in the mid-60s.
Grand slam chasing Rory carded a bogey-free seven under par 65 to close to within three shots heading in to Sunday’s final round.
“It was a great day. I’m closer to the lead than I was starting off the day, which a bonus, especially when you see Patrick go out and shoot 67 and obviously play very well,” said Rory.

“I rode my luck a little bit out there – the chip-in on the eighth hole, finding my ball in the azaleas on 13, not the first time. Then hitting the tree on 18 and coming back in the fairway and making a birdie from that.

“I rode my luck a little bit out there today. Hopefully, I don’t have to rely on it too much tomorrow, but it was just a great day. To get myself into the final group, and have a chance to win another major, I’m excited. You couldn’t ask for much more out of today.”

Nine of the top 12 players in the Official World Golf Ranking are within the top 15 of the leaderboard after round three, but it was the World Number 24 Reed who stole the show and delighted the patrons with four birdies and two eagles helping him to a five under 67 and a 14 under total.
Five shots clear of the field after an eagle at the 15th, Reed suffered a bogey on the 16th hole soon after McIlroy had put the galleries into raptures with a closing birdie on the last.

“I think the biggest thing this week is just going out and playing golf. I’m trying not to allow the moment to take over me, really just go out and play some golf and just hit golf shots,” said Reed.

“I feel like I’m hitting the ball well enough, I feel like I’m putting well enough. I just need to go out and play the game and not worry about everything else and just play golf.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun tomorrow. Obviously, we’re both playing really solid golf, and to be able to go into a final round on Sunday at the first major and go up against each other and go out and play some good golf, it’s going to be a lot of fun to go out there. But really, I’m just going to do my thing and stick to my game plan and go out and enjoy my Sunday.”
Fowler is five shots off Reed’s lead in third place on nine under par, while Rahm is one further back on eight under – both having signed for 67s.

202 P Reed (USA) 69 66 67,
205 R McIlroy (Nir) 69 71 65,
207 R Fowler (USA) 70 72 65,
208 J Rahm (Esp) 75 68 65,
209 H Stenson (Swe) 69 70 70,
210 B Watson (USA) 73 69 68, T Fleetwood (Eng) 72 72 66, M Leishman (Aus) 70 67 73,
211 J Spieth (USA) 66 74 71, J Thomas (USA) 74 67 70,
212 D Johnson (USA) 73 68 71,
213 J Rose (Eng) 72 70 71, L Oosthuizen (RSA) 71 71 71, C Smith (Aus) 71 72 70,
215 J Walker (USA) 73 71 71, T Finau (USA) 68 74 73, J Day (Aus) 75 71 69, C Hoffman (USA) 69 73 73, M Kuchar (USA) 68 75 72, B Wiesberger (Aut) 70 73 72,
216 S Kodaira (Jpn) 71 74 71, A Hadwin (Can) 69 75 72, F Molinari (Ita) 72 74 70, M Fitzpatrick (Eng) 75 74 67, H Matsuyama (Jpn) 73 71 72, K Kisner (USA) 72 75 69, S Kim (Kor) 75 73 68, R Henley (USA) 73 72 71,
217 H Li (Chn) 69 76 72,
218 J Vegas (Ven) 77 69 72, A Scott (Aus) 75 73 70, D Berger (USA) 73 74 71, Z Johnson (USA) 70 74 74, R Moore (USA) 74 72 72, P Casey (Eng) 74 75 69,
219 W Simpson (USA) 76 73 70, R Cabrera Bello (Esp) 69 76 74, F Couples (USA) 72 74 73, B Langer (Ger) 74 74 71,
220 T Woods (USA) 73 75 72, B Grace (RSA) 73 73 74, B Dechambeau (USA) 74 74 72,
221 X Schauffele (USA) 71 78 72, K Aphibarnrat (Tha) 79 70 72, K Stanley (USA) 72 74 75, M Kaymer (Ger) 74 73 74,
222 T Hatton (Eng) 74 75 73, C Reavie (USA) 76 71 75, D Ghim (am) (USA) 72 76 74,
223 B Harman (USA) 73 74 76, P Mickelson (USA) 70 79 74, I Poulter (Eng) 74 75 74,
224 V Singh (Fij) 71 74 79,

Day Two – Masters 2018 – Reed leads, Rory five shots back

April 7, 2018

Henrik Stenson walks onto the 13th green during the second round of the 2018 Masters Tournament (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy will have to chase down US Ryder Cup star Patrick Reed after the American carded nine birdies in a stunning six under 66 to lead by two heading into the weekend at the Masters Tournament.

Grand slam chasing Rory carded a second round 71 (-1) while Reed opened with three successive birdies and carried that momentum the whole way through to finish the day on a nine under par total.

“My game feels okay. I played really well on the back nine, especially I made three really good pars on ten, 11 and 12 and then I had chances all the way in,” said Rory.

“I’m a little frustrated that I’m not in the clubhouse at say, six or seven under, I missed two really good chances coming in. It was a tricky day. Anything under par was pretty good but I feel like I left a couple out there.”

Reed was three shots clear stepping into the 16th tee but a bogey on the famous par three opened the door for the chasing pack, which was led by second-placed Marc Leishman of Australia, who signed for a five under 67 to move to a seven under for the week thus far.

“Everyone wants to win, and if you don’t believe you can win them, then you probably shouldn’t be playing,” said Reed.

“I believe that if I play the golf that I know how to play, that I can win majors. And it’s just one of those things – I have to go in and not get ahead of myself and go into tomorrow and just take it shot by shot, hole-by-hole, like I’ve been doing.”

Swedish former Open Champion Stenson is two shots further back after adding a two under 70 to his first round 69. He and Rory will play together in the second last group today (Saturday).

With heavy rain forecast for today, it is set to be an eventful moving day and a thrilling weekend in the year’s first Major Championship.

135 P Reed (USA) 69 66,
137 M Leishman (Aus) 70 67,
139 H Stenson (Swe) 69 70,
140 J Spieth (USA) 66 74, R McIlroy (Nir) 69 71,
141 D Johnson (USA) 73 68, J Thomas (USA) 74 67,
142 B Watson (USA) 73 69, C Hoffman (USA) 69 73, T Finau (USA) 68 74, R Fowler (USA) 70 72, J Rose (Eng) 72 70, L Oosthuizen (RSA) 71 71,
143 B Wiesberger (Aut) 70 73, J Rahm (Esp) 75 68, M Kuchar (USA) 68 75, C Smith (Aus) 71 72,
144 T Fleetwood (Eng) 72 72, H Matsuyama (Jpn) 73 71, Z Johnson (USA) 70 74, J Walker (USA) 73 71, A Hadwin (Can) 69 75,
145 V Singh (Fij) 71 74, R Cabrera Bello (Esp) 69 76, H Li (Chn) 69 76, R Henley (USA) 73 72, S Kodaira (Jpn) 71 74,
146 J Vegas (Ven) 77 69, B Grace (RSA) 73 73, R Moore (USA) 74 72, F Couples (USA) 72 74, K Stanley (USA) 72 74, J Day (Aus) 75 71, F Molinari (Ita) 72 74,
147 M Kaymer (Ger) 74 73, D Berger (USA) 73 74, C Reavie (USA) 76 71, B Harman (USA) 73 74, K Kisner (USA) 72 75,
148 T Woods (USA) 73 75, B Dechambeau (USA) 74 74, A Scott (Aus) 75 73, S Kim (Kor) 75 73, B Langer (Ger) 74 74, D Ghim (am) (USA) 72 76,
149 P Mickelson (USA) 70 79, T Hatton (Eng) 74 75, K Aphibarnrat (Tha) 79 70, X Schauffele (USA) 71 78, P Casey (Eng) 74 75, W Simpson (USA) 76 73, M Fitzpatrick (Eng) 75 74, I Poulter (Eng) 74 75,
150 J Dufner (USA) 73 77, S Lyle (Sco) 74 76, J Olazábal (Esp) 74 76, C Schwartzel (RSA) 72 78,
151 B Steele (USA) 76 75, T Pieters (Bel) 73 78, D Frittelli (RSA) 77 74, S Sharma (Ind) 77 74, P Cantlay (USA) 75 76, D Willett (Eng) 75 76, T Potter Jnr (USA) 73 78,
152 P Perez (USA) 73 79, W Bryan (USA) 74 78, P Kizzire (USA) 76 76, R Fisher (Eng) 78 74,
153 K Chappell (USA) 77 76, A Noren (Swe) 74 79, T Immelman (RSA) 78 75, Y Ikeda (Jpn) 76 77, J Niemann (am) (Chi) 76 77, D Redman (am) (USA) 76 77,
154 Y Miyazato (Jpn) 77 77, G Woodland (USA) 78 76, A Cook (USA) 74 80,
155 B Horschel (USA) 76 79, I Woosnam (Wal) 79 76, M Weir (Can) 76 79,
156 L Mize (USA) 76 80,
159 A Cabrera (Arg) 76 83, M O’Meara (USA) 78 81, S Garcia (Esp) 81 78, Y Lin (am) (Chn) 79 80,
160 M Parziale (am) (USA) 81 79,
166 H Ellis (am) (Eng) 86 80,

Day one – Masters 2018 – Spieth leads, Rory three shots back

April 6, 2018

Rory McIlroy plays his second shot on the first hole during the first round of the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 5, 2018 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy opened with a three under par 69 at the Masters Tournament, leaving the Grand Slam-chasing Northern Irishman three shots off the lead of Augusta National specialist Jordan Spieth.

“If I look back on my highlights for the day, I’d say I had three of them,” said Spieth.

“Two of them were bogeys and one was an eagle. My bogey save that I made on seven was a fantastic putt that kept it going, I saw a putt go in. It was a very difficult putt, and I could have dropped to over par, and it led to stepping on eight tee feeling regrouped.

“I hit two beautiful shots and made a three there, and then on 18 – unfortunately, I’ve had to do some interesting things on 18 in my career here. That was actually one of the more comfortable tee shots for me.

“I just wasn’t very on it with the driver today, and I was playing a fade and just kind of got it there early. But it was a beautiful chip shot. I probably couldn’t have gotten closer with a whole bucket of balls.”

The four-time Major winner McIlroy would join an elite list of players to have claimed all four of the Major Championships if he were to earn a Green Jacket this week and, having won a first title in 18 months two weeks ago on the US PGA Tour, entered the week full of confidence.

Opening with a birdie, the 28-year-old from Holywood had a steady if unspectacular front nine before birdies at the 13th and 15th, along with three crucial par saves in the final three holes, moved him into a share of fourth.

“I made one mistake, the bogey on seven. But apart from that, I missed a couple of birdie chances early on, and I just told myself to stay patient out there. I think anything around 60 out there is a pretty good score,” said Rory.

“You look at it and not anyone is really getting away. Jordan had a pretty strong finish there. But this is my best start in a few years and it’s such a hard golf course to play catch up on. If you start to chase it around here, that’s when you start to make mistakes.

“But to be right up there and have the ability to stay patient, because of the position I’m in, that’s a nice luxury I have over the next few days.”

He was joined there by fellow European Tour Members Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain, Haotong Li of China, American Patrick Reed and Swede Henrik Stenson, among others, as 2015 Masters Champion Spieth put on another masterful display at the pristine Georgia venue to move two strokes clear on six under par.

Spa’s Gary Wardlow survives six hole shootout to claim PGA Links Trophy

March 29, 2018


The inaugural PGA Links Trophy Super Six final at Royal County Down threw up some surprise results before Gary Wardlow emerged as the victor.
The 16 qualifiers competed in four groups of four, playing round robin six-hole medal matchplay with the winner of each group progressing to the semi-finals.
The final pitted Spa professional Wardlow against Knockracken’s Wes Ramsey, with the Spa man coming through to win by two points – 12 to 10.
“In this format anyone can win and you can always get some shocks,” remarked PGA Northern Branch secretary and organiser Phil Posnett.
Surprises there were, too, as favourite Damian Mooney failed to emerge from Group A and Simon Thornton didn’t make it from Group B. Others to fall by the wayside in the group sections were Gary McNeill (Royal Portrush), Chris Carvill (Belvoir Park) and Shaun Donnelly (Castle Hume), players who have been showing good form on the way to the final day’s play.

PGA Links Trophy Super Six Final at Royal County Down
Group A Winner – Wes Ramsey (Knockbracken).
Group B Winner – Ciarán Molloy (Mayobridge).
Group C Winner – Gary Wardlow (Spa).
Group D Winner – Neil Graham (Portstewart).
Semi-finals – Ramsey bt Graham by 4 pts; Wardlow bt Molloy by 2 pts.
Play-off for 3rd & 4th Places – Graham and Molloy tied on 12 pts.
Final – Wardlow bt Ramsey by 2 pts.

Info courtesy of Tony McGee

Going low is a new challenge for Michael Hoey

March 25, 2018

Michael Hoey in action at Galgorm Castle

Michael Hoey finished tied for 18th in the opening event of the 2018 Challenge Tour season – the Barclays Kenya Open.
Now in his 16th year as a professional, he remains committed to the sport and engrossed in his job but the harsh realities facing professional golfers on the satellite tours are never far from his mind.

“I’m putting more into it now than I have done in years,” insists the 39-year-old who is fit and healthy after shaking off a lower back problem that hampered him last year.
“I still love the competition but professional golf is difficult and making money at it is the problem.
“The scoring is just so good now. Some weeks on tour the leaders are reaching 25 under which is incredible.”
After turning professional in 2002, Michael struggled to find his feet until finally becoming a fixture on the European Tour from 2009 to 2016.
He collected five wins in that period, the biggest of which was the Alfred Dunhill Championship in 2011. He was often inconsistent but when he got into a winning position, he had an uncanny knack of getting the job done.
He dropped down on to the Challenge Tour last year and will once again be plying his trade alongside the young guns in 2018.
“I quite enjoyed most of 2017 but I didn’t enjoy the lack of money,” he added.
“I like the friendly atmosphere around the Challenge Tour. There’s less clutter, fewer managers, agents and reps around.
“You just get to the venue and play golf so it’s quite pure in that regard.

“But it is tough going. You work hard, play well in some events and finish 11th, 12th, 13th and you walk away with €3,000 or €4,000. That just about pays for your expenses and you’ve played pretty well.

“I actually had my lowest ever stroke average last year and I was quite consistent but I just didn’t go low enough when I needed to.”
Michael’s role as tournament ambassador with the NI Open at Galgorm Castle had given him an insight into the low-scoring mind-set on the Challenge Tour but the week-to-week aggressive on-course approach of the players has given him pause for thought.
He continued; “There are so many players around the same mark these days and that is why cuts are so high. You can sometimes have 30 people on the same score. When I started 10, 15 years ago you would have had eight to 10 people on the same score. The cuts are so deep now.
“The standard is just so good. Yes, the courses are pretty straightforward, but it is ridiculously low scoring. It seems that every day someone shots 10 under par so you have got to be able to putt but I guess it is the same for everyone in the field.
“You have to be dialled in with the short irons. Know exactly how far you hit them and then you have to be able to score. Driver accuracy isn’t as important as driver length.
“I have seen so many guys on Challenge Tour hit a really bad tee shot but still walk away with birdie. On the main tour, you will be punished more often.”

As a result, Michael has been working hard on his game, particularly his putting at home. He’s also been hitting the gym with one eye on extending his career.
“I spoke to some of the physio guys at the end of last year about what I needed to do to stay competitive in my late 30s,” added Michael.
“They encouraged me to lift some weights because you need to keep your testosterone levels up especially when you are over 30.”
While he feels that things are in a good place physically and technically, he admits there is still room for improvement in his approach to how he plays the game.
He added; “On a Thursday you have to go for it from the start and be aggressive. Even making the cut is a waste of time because the money is so top heavy. You have to change your thinking and go for it and that is difficult.
“I have always had an attitude about playing my way into a round and finding some rhythm, not taking shots on until you have strung a few pars together.

“Last year, there was only four weeks on tour when the winning total was less than 16 under. How can you possibly play your way into a round by stringing a few pars together? That doesn’t work now.

“I tend to agree with the theory about how growing up on tough links course at home doesn’t help you as a professional. It is a birdie festival now and one under par isn’t a good score anymore. The cut in Turkey was five under last year!”

A more extensive version of this article appeared in Irish Golf Magazine.

Knock’s Whitford triumphant at Concra Wood

March 22, 2018

Ricky Whitford took the chequered flag as the PGA Race to Concra Wood ended at the Castleblayney venue.
The Knock pro posted a two-under-par 70 to edge out Vivian Teague, Ciarán Molloy and Brian McElhinney who shared second place.

Ricky Whitford

Whitford roared off early with a birdie four at the par five first, finding the putting surface with a drive and three wood and then two-putting from 30 feet. He dropped his only shot of the round at the par-four fifth hole when he failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker.
After turning in level 36 the winner birdied the par four 11th with a drive and wedge to seven feet and he also birdied the par-five 15th with a drive and a three wood to 25 feet.
He came home in two-under-34 for his steady round of 70 – three birdies, 14 pars and one bogey.

PGA Race to Concra Wood Final
Professionals: 70 (-2) – R Whitford (Knock).
71– V Teague (Loughgall), C Molloy (Mayobridge), B McElhinney (North West).
74 – S Bleakly (Blackwood), A Peoples (Darren Clarke Golf School)
75 – S Donnelly (Castle Hume), K Revie (Ballymena), G Wardlow (Spa).
Amateurs: Overall, 40 pts – E Simpson 12 (Loughgall).
Category 1 – 36 pts A Thompson 8 (Belvoir Pk) … 1st.
36 – B McCluskey 7 (Knock) … 2nd.
Category 2 – 36 pts – L McArdle 13 (Loughgall).
35 – B McGovern 11 (Concra Wood).
Category 3 – 36 pts – K McHugh 18 (Galgorm Castle) … 1st.
36 – D Duffin 16 (Dungannon) … 2nd.
Gross – 33 pts – B Quinn 3 (Killymoon)
Team: 93 pts – Pro V Teague plus Amateurs E Simpson 12 & L McArdle 13 (all Loughgall).

Thornton claims victory in final Links Trophy qualifier – final 16 confirmed

March 10, 2018

Simon Thornton (Tulfarris Golf Resort) carded a six-under-par 61 on Royal County Down’s Annesley Links to head off Brian McElhinney (North West) and Chris Carvill (Belvoir Park) in the final qualifying round of the PGA Links Trophy.
The winner coasted to the turn in three-under-par 31 with birdies at the second, third and ninth holes. At the second, he holed from eight feet after a drive and nine iron to the green, then wedged to five feet for a two at the next. At nine he drove the green and got down in two putts for another birdie three.
A gap wedge to six feet gave Thornton his second two but the run was halted when he found the rough twice at the 12th resulting in a bogey five.
His third two – an eagle this time – was pencilled in at the 15th after he drove to eight feet.
However, despite the birdies and his eagle, the key moment of Simon’s round came at the par four 17th where his drive was plugged in a bunker and he had to take a penalty drop. The attempted recovery then hit the bank and ran back into the sand but from there, he holed out to save his par.
Thornton finished with another birdie three as he rolled home a 15-footer after a drive and wedge to the 18th for a home run of 30.
The leading 16 players have qualified (list below) for the matchplay final at Royal County Down’s Championship Links on March 27.  The 16 players will play in groups of four, playing round robin six-hole medal Matchplay with the winner of each group progressing to the semi-finals in the afternoon.
Each semi-final will be nine-hole medal Matchplay with the two winners contesting the final over nine holes and the losers playing for third and fourth place over nine holes.

PGA Links Trophy Final Qualifying Round at Royal County Down (Annesley Course)
61 (-6) – S Thornton (Tulfarris Golf Resort).
62 – B McElhinney (North West), C Carvill (Belvoir Pk).
65 – A Cathers (Ardglass).
67 – N Kernaghan (Massereene), S Donnelly (Castle Hume).

PGA Links Trophy Qualifiers
Brian McElhinney (North West)
Simon Thornton (Tulfarris)
Chris Carvill (Belvoir Park)
Gary McNeill (Ry Portrush)
Shaun Donnelly (Castle Hume)
Adam Cathers (Ardglass)
Paul Stevenson (Portadown)
David Allen (Newtownstewart)
Damian Mooney (D Mooney Golf)
Ciaran Molloy (Mayobridge)
Chris Loughrey (Castlerock)
Nathan Kernaghan (Massereene)
Neil Graham (Portstewart)
Gary Wardlow (Spa)
Michael McCrudden (Roe Park)
Wes Ramsey (Knockbracken GA)

Info courtesy of Tony McGee

Concra Wood grabs opportunity to stage Irish Challenge

March 2, 2018

They’ve always had a can-do attitude at Concra Wood.
It got the course built in the first place and has kept it going through difficult financial times.
So, when club professional Conor McKenna received a phone call in January enquiring if the club would like to stage the Irish Challenge he didn’t give it a moment’s thought.
“I think I considered it for around three seconds before saying yes,” said Conor speaking on the NI Golf Podcast.
“When the Challenge Tour come knocking on your door, you just can’t refuse them.

“The format of the Irish Challenge with the involvement of Team Ireland, CGI etc really fits the bill for us and what is going on at the golf club.”

The stunning 7,300-yard layout in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan was designed by Ireland golfing legends Christy O’Connor Junior and Senior.
Offering lake views from every tee, with Lough Muckno coming into play on 11 of the 18 holes, the spectacular parkland course will host the fourth edition of the Irish Challenge (October 4-7).
The venue is no stranger to championship golf, having hosted the EuroPro Tour between 2012 and 2014, and its par-72 course is set to provide a tough test for some of global golf’s finest young talents later this year.

Homegrown players competing in the Irish Challenge will once again battle it out for the Christy O’Connor Junior Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the highest-ranked Irish player in the tournament.
Alain de Soultrait, European Challenge Tour Director, said: “We are thrilled to confirm that the Irish Challenge will take place at Concra Wood Golf Club. We would like to thank everyone at Concra Wood Golf Club for their support in hosting the Irish Challenge.”
Seamus Mallon, Chairman of Concra Wood Golf Club, said: “We are delighted to be hosting the Irish Challenge. The competitors are in for four days of challenging but very enjoyable golf and we know Concra Wood will provide a stern test.

“To host a Challenge Tour event this year is a great achievement considering our course will celebrate its 10th anniversary in July. We have many celebrations and events planned for this year but this certainly is the icing on the cake!”

Pat Finn, CEO of the Golfing Union of Ireland, said: “This tournament is a crucial part of the High Performance Programme run by the Confederation of Golf in Ireland.
“Thanks to Sport Ireland’s support, the players from Team Ireland Golf are provided with vital tournament exposure and playing opportunities, not just at their home event but across the Challenge Tour season.
“I’m sure we’ll see in October four days of excellent golf and it’s a chance for golf fans to come and support Ireland’s most talented players on home soil.”