Austria’s Isabella Holpfer broke some Irish hearts when she made a par four at the first extra hole to deny Castletroy’s Chloe Ryan and claim the Irish Women’s Open Strokeplay title at magnificent Dun Laoghaire.
t might have been a little more painful had it been an American who lifted the trophy at the superb new parkland course in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains that will host the Curtis Cup matches in little over a year’s time.
ut the fact that Ireland had so many players in the mix bodes well, not just for Curtis Cup but for the Vagliano Trophy matches which will be played at Malone near Belfast from June 26-27.
And it was especially encouraging for Great Britain and Ireland captain Elaine Farquharson-Black to get her first look at Dun Laoghaire and see how proud non-US college players are to represent club and country at the highest level.
“I’d never been to Dun Laoghaire before and it was wonderful to get there to see the players as we are picking the Vagliano Trophy teams next week,” said Elaine, who is saddened that the huge emphasis on the big world ranking events has gone some way towards diluting enthusiasm for grassroots, domestic championships.
“It’s a superb venue — almost like a continental club — where you arrive at those big security gates and then head up that drive. It will be wonderful for the Curtis Cup.”
With so many of Great Britain and Ireland’s top players now competing on the US collegiate circuit, Elaine admits that she is torn between lamenting the sometimes weakened fields that play in the domestic events and enjoying the greater confidence the semi-pro amateurs bring to the table despite their clear penchant for the individual over the collective.
“It’s wonderful that our players are doing so well in places like the US and teeing it up in these great championships, taking on their American counterparts and being able to look them in the eye and beat them,” she said.
"Nowadays, our girls know all the American very well and have played against them often and beaten them, which can only be good for us in the Curtis Cup.
“Clearly, many of them are focussed on a future in the professional game and that’s wonderful, but sometimes I think it might be nice if they took their time and built up a great amateur career and played perhaps two Curtis Cups or two Vaglianos before taking the plunge.
“The days of the career amateur appear to be over and there are no more Mary McKenna’s ready to play 10 Curtis Cups these days. But it’s a huge honour to pull on that jersey or wear your national blazer and represent your country and that sense of pride might be felt a little deeper if our talented players remained in the amateur game for just a little longer.”
Ireland will have up to six players contending for Vagliano Trophy and Curtis Cup honours, headed by world No 1 Leona Maguire and Royal County Down Ladies’ Olivia Mehaffey, who came up just short in her bid for a four successive victory in the Irish Women’s Open Strokeplay at Dun Laoghaire on Sunday.
In the end she finished fourth on four over par, just two strokes outside a playoff for the title.
But it’s clear that she’s got the kind of game and attitude to take on the best the USA can muster at Dun Laoghaire next year, especially when it comes to power.
“I think it’s a course that will probably suit our girls because so many of them now play their golf in the United States where you have to hit elevated greens,” said the GB&I captain. “I remember when I first went to play in the States, it’s when I first changed from hitting long irons to fairway woods.
“I needed to hang the ball in the air a little, but our girls hit the ball so high nowadays, it’s not a problem. Standards have really improved and it’s clear that thanks to improved coaching, they hit the ball differently to before. A lot of them hit the ball a little like a man. They can really compress it.”
A native of Aberdeen, Farquharson-Black knows what it’s like to play Curtis Cup and Vagliano Trophy, winning the former in 1992.
"We have a good pool of very talented players and playing in front of home crowds in Belfast and Dublin will hopefully provide an extra boost, as happened in Nairn in the 2012 Curtis Cup match, and help us to regain both the Vagliano Trophy and the Curtis Cup,” she said.
She certainly got a good taste of the talent at her disposal at Dun Laoghaire and while there was disappointment for Castletroy talent Ryan, who closed with a two over 75 to set the target, and for McSherry, who took seven at the last to miss out on a playoff, there’s clearly a deep well of talent in the Irish ranks.
As Holpfer shot a five over 78 to match Ryan and force extra holes, the performances of Annabel Wilson (Lurgan), Jessica Ross (Donaghadee) and Louise Coffey (Malone), who all secured top 10 finishes, were duly noted.
Who knows, given the momentum Irish women’s golf has on its side with Leona Maguire on top of the world, a great wave could hit the USA at Dun Laoghaire in next year’s Curtis Cup.
Irish Women's Open Strokeplay, Dun Laoghaire (PAR 219 SSS 75 CSS 76 75 77)
221 Isabella Holpfer (Austria) 71 72 78, Chloe Ryan (Castletroy) 75 71 75
222 Niamh McSherry (Lurgan) 72 71 79
223 Olivia Mehaffey (Royal Co. Down Ladies) 73 76 74
224 Sophie Lamb (England) 77 69 78, Annabel Wilson (Lurgan) 75 73 76
225 Gemma Clews (England) 79 74 72
226 Sophie Keech (England) 79 74 73, Jessica Ross (Donaghadee) 74 74 78
227 Inci Mehmet (England) 75 76 76, Louise Coffey (Malone) 74 77 76
228 Samantha Giles (England) 76 76 76
229 Ellie Goodall (England) 77 77 75, Sinead Sexton (Lahinch) 75 74 80
230 Chloe Frankish (England) 80 73 77
231 Alice Hewson (England) 80 74 77, Bethan Popel (England) 74 80 77
233 Elizabeth Prior (England) 76 74 83
234 Danielle McVeigh (Royal Co. Down Ladies) 81 73 80, Julie McCarthy (Forrest Little) 79 75 80
235 Maria Dunne (Skerries) 81 76 78, Emma O'Driscoll (Ballybunion) 78 78 79, Sarah Helly (Enniscrone) 77 76 82, Charlotte Austwick (England) 74 82 79
237 Aedin Murphy (Carlow) 82 78 77, Mairead Martin (Killarney) 78 78 81, Chloe Weir (Shandon Park) 75 81 81
239 Valerie Clancy (Killarney) 81 79 79, Mary Doyle (The Heath) 79 83 77, Samantha Fuller (England) 79 77 83
240 Tara Gribben (Warrenpoint) 79 80 81
242 Katie Aherne (Waterford Castle) 79 78 85
243 Laura Doherty (Howth) 86 75 82, Karen Delaney (Carlow) 84 76 83, Sarah Cunningham (Ennis) 79 80 84
246 Fiona McCann (England) 80 80 86
247 Sara Byrne (Douglas) 85 79 83, Jean O'Driscoll (Muskerry) 78 86 83
248 Jenny Maguire (Foxrock) 82 82 84
249 Nicky King (Woodbrook) 81 83 85
250 Lauren Walsh (Castlewarden) 77 85 88
263 Cliodhna McCarthy (Dun Laoghaire) 82 80 101
161 Karen O'Neill (Douglas) 80 81
RTD Victoria Craig (Royal Belfast) 81 81 RTD
WD Ariana Coyle Diez (Elm Park) 80 84 WD
165 Mollie Lawrence (England) 83 82
166 Elisa Corcoran (Grange) 80 86
167 Roisin Brady (Co. Louth) 84 83 , Sophie Harrison (Killeen Castle) 82 85
168 Lisa O'Shea (Shannon) 86 82 , Louise Hanratty (Mannan Castle) 85 83 , Maeve Cummins (Lurgan) 84 84
169 Nicola Coffey (Woodbrook) 82 87
171 Aoife Lowry (Tipperary) 88 83
172 Emma Gilmore (Mountbellew) 89 83 , Clodagh Walsh (Castlewarden) 86 86 , Rachel Thompson (Cork) 86 86
173 Eleanor Metcalfe (Laytown & Bettystown) 88 85
174 Megan Jenkins (England) 87 87
175 Jenny Hennessy (Lahinch) 88 87 , Alice Hutchinson (St. Anne's) 86 89
177 Clodagh Jones (Roscrea) 87 90
178 Michelle Tierney (Waterford Castle) 90 88
180 Nicole McGavisk (Donabate) 88 92
199 Emer Foley (Castlecomer) 98 101
NR Ruth Maguire (Corrstown) 105 NR
RTD Grace McGrath (East Cork) 96 RTD, Paula Grant (Lisburn) RTD