Team Ireland backs girl power
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If any Irishwoman fails to make the European Solheim Cup team that will do battle with the USA on Irish soil next year, it certainly won’t be for any lack of support from the Team Ireland Golf Trust.

Of the €217,000 allocated to 17 aspiring golfers in the 2010 round of grants, €90,000 of that total has been awarded to five players competing on the Ladies European Tour.

While Qualifying School graduate Simon Thornton was awarded €20,000 as he bids to establish himself on the European Tour, Alison Walshe, Martina Gillen and Tara Delaney were also awarded €20,000 each with Rebecca Coakley and Hazel Kavanagh receiving another €15,000 apiece.

Galway born Walshe, who also has a card on LPGA Tour in the United States, has decided to represent Ireland in the professional ranks having competed for the USA in the Curtis Cup in 2008 as an amateur.

Ineligible for the US Solheim Cup side as she was not born in the United States, she wants to represent Europe at Killeen Castle next year.

“I am thrilled to receive this generous grant from the Golf Trust,” Walshe said in the official press release of the grants. “I’m starting to play an extensive LET schedule this week in New Zealand and am really honored to do it as a member of Team Ireland. One of my chief goals is to represent our country in the 2011 Solheim Cup and this support will help tremendously”.

Challenge Tour players Niall Kearney, Jonathan Caldwell and Gareth Shaw receive grants of €15,000 but Irish Open champion Shane Lowry, who got €20,000 last year, doesn’t need any more help having earned over €300,000 since he turn professional.

“I turned professional in quite abnormal circumstances last May but the Sports Council were quick to lend their support via the Team Ireland Golf Trust,” Lowry said.  “It gave me the essential financial backbone that helped kick-start my professional career and without that I may not be where I am today.

“I know that these days it is increasingly hard for golfers to get funding, and that is why schemes like the Golf Trust are invaluable.  I am fortunate enough to have made a successful start to my professional career, and hence fully support the Irish Sports Council’s decision to not provide me with funding in 2010.”

As part of the Trust’s support package, all golfers can avail of the world class facilities at the GUI’s National Academy at Carton House. The golfers on the Trust scheme also have free access to the network of service providers such as physiologists, sports psychologists, biomechanists, physiotherapists, and doctors offered by the Irish Sports Council to the athletes on the International Carding Scheme.

New recipient  Kearney said: “The support from the Team Ireland Golf Trust will be of great practical benefit to me as I seek to establish myself in my first year as a professional. The financial backing from the Trust will allow me to concentrate on my game and hopefully achieve my full tour card later in the year.”

This is the eleventh year of the Trust, which has provided €2.5 million in financial support to golfers to date.

The Trust, which is administered by the Irish Sport Council, aims to contribute to an increase in the presence of Irish golf professionals on the various international tours. It is a partnership between state agencies and the various golf organisations.

Financial backing for the Trust is provided by the Irish Sports Council, Fáilte Ireland and the PGA European Tour. 

Team Ireland Golf Trust Grants 2010

Simon Thornton, Co. Down European Tour €20,000

Martina Gillen, Co. Cavan Ladies European Tour €20,000

Alison Walshe, USA & Co.Galway Ladies European Tour €20,000

Tara Delaney, Co. Carlow Ladies European Tour €20,000 

Niall Kearney, Dublin Challenge Tour €15,000

Jonathan Caldwell, Co. Down Challenge Tour €15,000

Gareth Shaw, Co. Antrim Challenge Tour €15,000

Rebecca Coakley, Co. Carlow Ladies European Tour €15,000

Hazel Kavanagh, Dublin Ladies European Tour €15,000

Colm Moriarty, Co. Westmeath Challenge Tour €10,000

Michael McGeady, Co. Donegal Challenge Tour €10,000

Brian McElhinney, Co. Donegal Europro Tour/Challenge Tour €7,000

Peter O’Keeffe, Co. Cork Europro Tour/Challenge Tour €7,000

Richard Kilpatrick, CoDown Alps Tour/Challenge Tour €7,000

Niall Turner, Co. Cork Europro Tour/Challenge Tour €7,000

Paul O’Hanlon, Co. Kildare Europro Tour/Challenge Tour €7,000

Barrie Trainor, Co. Down Europro Tour/Challenge Tour €7,000

Total €217,000