Jack Hume surprised nobody but disappointed a few when he withdrew from this week's Radisson Blu Hotel and Spa sponsored West of Ireland Championship at County Sligo.
The 2014 champion, Ireland's leading amateur and a recent winner of both the South African Amateur Strokeplay and the European Nations Cup, may have had a busy start to the year with more big events to come, but his absence still sends out the message that our historic championships are way down the priority list for our top players these days.
Hume is a great player and clearly can't play everything though having starred in the Walker Cup and having recently won four points out of four for Europe in their Bonallack Trophy victory over Asia Pacific in Portugal, he'd have added greatly to the championship, which begins on Friday with the first of two strokeplay qualifying rounds after which the top 64 will square off in matchplay combat from Sunday.
The Lytham Trophy (29 April – 1 May) is a bigger event in the eyes of the top players and Hume will lead a strong Irish party that also includes Conor O’Rourke (Naas), Alex Gleeson (Castle/UCD), Stuart Grehan (Tullamore/MU), John Ross Galbraith (Whitehead) and Dermot McElroy (Ballymena).
As for the West, the 18 hole qualifier (draw) for the last 11 spots in the 132-strong field for the 36-hole strokeplay qualifier, goes ahead on Wednesday.
There will then be 0830 and 1330 "claxon" starts on Friday and Saturday — a repeat of last year due to lack of light but not a permanent format.
Bookies Paddy Power have drawn up odds and made defending champion McElroy the 7/1 favourite ahead of reigning East and South of Ireland champion Stuart Grehan (15/2) with Robin Dawson and Alex Gleeson both 12/1.
Championship winners in the field:
- Dermot McElroy 7/1
- Stuart Grehan 15/2
- John Ross Galbraith 14/1
- Tiarnan McLarnon 20/1
- Colm Campbell Jnr 20/1
- Pat Murray 28/1
- Stuart Bleakley 28/1
- Joe Lyons 80/1
- Michael Sinclair 80/1
- John Greene 150/1
McElroy is also fancied to win the medal awarded to the leading qualifier.