County Sligo Golf ClubBen Bulben stands guard over County Sligo Golf Club. Picture by Fona courtesy big guns have gathered in the shadow of mighty Ben Bulben for the 91st staging of the Radisson Blu sponsored West of Ireland Championship.

But while silverware and potential Walker Cup appearances are on the minds of Ireland’s top internationals, two men make their championship debuts at Rosses Point simply happy to tee it up in such illustrious company - 17-year old qualifier Charles McGoldrick Jnr from Enniscrone and former Waterford All Star hurler Paul Flynn.

The opening tee shot falls to schoolboy McGoldrick, who was one of three players to emerge from the inaugural, 18-hole pre-qualifier on Wednesday and make a 123-strong field that is the strongest in the history of the event.

The son on the late and highly popular Enniscrone professional Charlie McGoldrick, who passed away at the age of 52 less than two years ago, the 4.7 handicapper is the highest handicapper in the field by a long way having only made it into the qualifier as a reserve.

So strong is the entry for this year’s “West”  that the handicap cut off fell at an all time low of 0.0, meaning that McGoldrick needed a spate of withdrawals just to make the 67-strong field for Wednesday’s qualifier, where he and County Sligo’s Shane Underwood and Cairndhu’s Stephen Watts shot two over 73’s to earn their places on the first tee at 7am today.

County Sligo Golf ClubThe first tee at Rosses Point. Picture by Fiona, courtesy countysligogolfclub.ieThe objective after two rounds of strokeplay is to make the top 64 who will do battle in Sunday’s first round of matchplay.

And while that’s the big goal for former Waterford hurler Flynn, he just wants to enjoy the experience when takes on a pristine County Sligo in his first amateur ‘major” have got his handicap down to plus 0.1 at Tramore.

The 38-year old won three Munster titles as a left wing-forward with the Decies and played at all the great GAA venues before that 2008 All Ireland final defeat to mighty Kilkenny at Croke Park brought the curtain down on a fine career.

“I’ve never been to Rosses Point before so I’m hoping that ignorance might help,” joked Flynn, who won a Munster Senior Cup pennant with Tramore last season. “I’ve heard so much about Rosses Point and I’m really looking forward to it. Fingers crossed I am still talking as positively about it next Monday because it’s going to be cold and very challenging.”

Having played top flight hurling for 15 years and even one season in goal for League of Ireland side Waterford United before that, Flynn is not sure that his vast experience in top flight sport will stand to him when he rubs shoulders with the best golfers in the country.

Paul FlynnPaul Flynn in hs heyday for Waterford. Picture courtesy“I had some idea what I was doing with the hurling but it wasn’t as tough mentally as golf,” he said. “Hurling is so quick it is instinctive and your decisions are made for you a lot of the time.

“You just don’t have time to think about your next move, you’re just pushed into reactions and it is all over before you know it. In golf you hit it and have 250 yards to think about your next shot.

“Hopefully I can take some the experience I have gathered from playing sport and remember that that is all it is, it’s just sport.”

With the exception of British Amateur champion Alan Dunbar, who is preparing for the Masters, all the leading Irish internationals are taking part, headed by plus five handicapper Richard O’Donovan from Lucan.

There are no fewer than 89 players off plus one or better but all eyes will be on the likes of Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy, Headfort’s Rory McNamara, Claremorris’ Stephen Healy, who lost to Harry Diamond in last year’s final, or Mourne’s Reeve Whitson, the recently crowned Spanish Amateur Open champion.

The 21-year old son of long-serving Royal County Down professional Kevan, Whitson has set his sights on making September’s Walker Cup side.

“I had two goals at the beginning of the season, to win and to make the Walker Cup team,” Whitson said. “Now that I’ve got the win, it’s all about trying to make that team by continuing to play well throughout the season.”

County Sligo Golf ClubThe 18th at Rosses Point. Picture courtesy the West has yet to be kind to Whitson, who hasn’t made it past the second round in three attempts, he’s playing with a huge amount of confidence.

“When I made the final [in Spain] I was really up for it. It felt like it was my time,” Whitson said. “At the West I’ll just try to keep doing what I have been doing but anything can happen in matchplay and the weather will be a challenge.

“I should be used to it because I grew up on a links but I actually prefer hitting the ball high. I enjoy the challenge of the bad weather but I’d prefer it to be fine. My game is in good shape and I don’t really have any real strengths or weaknesses but there are a lot of good players this week with guys like Rory McNamara, Dermot McElroy and Richie O’Donovan all playing well.”

O’Donovan is another man with unfinished business at Rosses Point. Like Whitson, he has never made it past the second round and fell at the first hurdle last year after topping the qualifiers when he went down to Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell Jnr by 2 and 1.

West of Ireland Amateur Open Championship, Co Sligo GC in association with Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa

36 Hole Strokeplay Qualifying


  1. (7.00/10.09) C McGoldrick (Enniscrone), S Underwood (Co Sligo), S Watts (Cairndhu);

  2. (7.09/10.18), S Flanagan (Co Sligo), E Cradock (Gort/NUIG), R Mullarney (Galway);

  3. (7.18/10.27) E McCormack (Co. Cavan), R O’Donovan (Lucan), B Anderson (Co Sligo/Royal Dublin);

  4. (7.27/10.36) S Barry (Muskerry), T Cleary (Dromoland), C O’Rourke (Naas/NUIM);

  5. (7.36/10.45) S Hogan (Nenagh), B Best (Rathmore), S McCarthy (Killeen Castle/ NUIM);

  6. (7.45/10.54) M Buggy (Castlecomer), R Connolly (Rathsallagh), S Ryan (Royal Dublin);

  7. (7.54/11.03) W Hanna (Kilkeel), D Lally (Mullingar), S O’Connor (LuttrellstownCastle);

  8. (8.03/11.12) D O’Neill (Carton House), T McLarnon (Massereene/UU), J Greene (Portmarnock);

  9. (8.12/11.21) T O’Connor (Athlone), R Gribben (Warrenpoint/UU), S Brady (Co Sligo);

  10. (8.21/11.30) S Healy (Claremorris), C Campbell (Warrenpoint/UU), R Kenny (Naas);

  11. (8.30/11.39) R Bridges (Stackstown), Q Carew (Edenderry), J Yates (Naas);

  12. (8.39/11.48) P McBride (The Island), H Coyne (Carton House), C Dullaghan (Greenore);

  13. (8.48/11.57) S Miskelly (Knock), B Daly (Edmondstown), M King (Cregmore Park);

  14. (8.57/12.06) G Lawlor (Newbridge), S Carter (Stackstown), J Leacy (Dungarvan);

  15. (9.06/12.24) P Murray (Limerick), M Collins (Mahon), G O’Flaherty (Cork);

  16. (9.15/12.33) A Thomas (Dungarvan), N Gorey (Muskerry), G Lenehan (Portmarnock);

  17. (9.24/12.42) N Foley (The Island), I Lynch (Rosslare), K Le Blanc (The Island);

  18. (9.42/12.51) D Barry (Mahon), M Sinclair (Knock), K Stack (Dungarvan);

  19. (9.51/13.00) P McCrudden (Royal Portrush), S Moran (Carton House), G Bohill (Co. Louth);

  20. (10.00/13.09) S O’Hara (Co Sligo), D Loftus (Castlebar), K McDonagh (Athlone);

  21. (10.09/13.18) G McGrane (Royal Dublin), C O’Sullivan (Fota Island), P Coughlan (Moate);

  22. (10.18/7.00) G Collins (Rosslare), G Lappin (Belvoir Park), S McGlynn (Carton House);

  23. (10.27/7.09) I Kettyle (Rathmore), K Lynch (Skibbereen), S Coulter (Warrenpoint);

  24. (10.36/7.18) M Morrissey (Mount Wolseley), A Purdy (Ballyclare), E Ryan (Lucan);

  25. (10.45/7.27) L McMillan (Carton House), R Dawson (Faithlegg), A Wynne (Strandhill);

  26. (10.54/7.36) S Cannon (Loughrea), P Flynn (Tramore), J McLaughlin (Portumna);

  27. (11.03/7.45) C Geraghty (L’town & B’town), B McSweeney (Royal Dublin), R Lester (Hermitage);

  28. (11.12/7.54) S Bryan (Delgany), J Hood (Galgorm Castle), J O’Neill (Lee Valley);

  29. (11.21/8.03) R Leonard (Banbridge), K McCarthy (Kinsale), N O’Hare (Castleknock);

  30. (11.30/8.12) M McAlpin (Royal Portrush), C Sharvin (Ardglass), JR Galbraith (Whitehead);

  31. (11.39/8.21) A Hogan (Newlands), A Gleeson (Castle), R Cannon (Balbriggan);

  32. (11.48/8.30) H Featherstone (Ringway, UK), D McElroy (Ballymena), S Ward (Co. Louth);

  33. (11.57/8.39) J McCormick (Styal, UK), R Whitson (Mourne), E Arthurs (Forrest Little);

  34. (12.06/8.48) J Haines (Gerrards Cross,UK), H Diamond (Belvoir Park), J Lyons (Galway);

  35. (12.24/8.57) M Wylie (Quinta da Ria, POR), G Hurley (West Waterford), I O’Rourke (Cork);

  36. (12.33/9.06) S Sloman (Taunton & Pick., UK), G McKenna (Fortwilliam), J Hume (Rathsallagh);

  37. (12.42/9.15) R Busher (Salisbury & SW, UK), R McNamara (Headfort), A Kearney (Castlerock);

  38. (12.51/9.24) M Killen (Hessle, UK), G Moynihan (The Island), G McDermott (Co Sligo);

  39. (13.00/9.42) T Sloman (Taunton & Pick., UK), M Shanahan (Castlemartyr), C Fairweather (Knock);

  40. (13.09/9.51) D Callister (Mount Murray, IOM), B Casey (Headfort), N Grant (Knock);

  41. (13.18/10.00) E Smith (Ardee), I Brennan (Greenore), A Morris (Belvoir Park).