Former Ryder Cup players Eamonn Darcy and Des Smyth will hope to follow the example of Shane Lowry and provide a popular home winner when the pair tee up in the Irish Seniors Open in association with Fálite Ireland and AIB Bank from June 5-7.
Smyth came so close to landing his national Senior Open title last year when he finished runner up to Spaniard Juan Quiros, who produced a superb approach shot to birdie the last hole and capture the trophy by one stroke.
It meant Smyth missed out on his third European Senior Tour title but the man from Drogheda, who played in The 3 Irish Open at his local club County Louth early this month where then Irish amateur Lowry won in such inspirational fashion, admits he is looking forward to trying again at Ballybunion Golf Club in County Kerry.
“I’ve played the Irish Open before at Ballybunion (in 2000) – that’s the only time I played there” he said.
“Patrick Sjöland won and I think I finished sixth but it’s a really good, old traditional links golf course.
“I think it’s good that we have the Irish Seniors Open on a links course and I’m sure my fellow senior professionals will enjoy it.”
Smyth will face stiff competition from a top class field including former Ryder Cup Captains Sam Torrance and Ian Woosnam but he feels the links course could prove to his advantage.
“If my game is on I’m happy playing anywhere but I’m quite comfortable on links – I’ve played a lot of my golf there but I have been struggling with my game lately.
“Last year I probably should have won it. The weather blew up terribly and I think it beat most people up. Juan played a fantastic shot on the last but I should have had it all sewn up by then. The weather beat me. It blew a hurricane.
“If my game is on I have every chance of winning. My driving and irons need to improve. I’ve not been happy with my game lately but Ballybunion would be a great place for it to all come together. I’m really looking forward to it.
“You always want to win your National Open most of all. I never managed it on The European Tour so hopefully I can do it on the Senior Tour.”
Meanwhile Darcy heads to Ballybunion buoyed by his fine performance in the Son Gual Mallorca Senior Open where he lost in a play-off to former Ryder Cup Captain Mark James on the third extra hole.
That was the eighth time the 56 year old has finished runner up on the European Senior Tour and the man from Enniskerry would dearly love to finally land his maiden title in his National Open.
“I’d love to get a good run at it,” said Darcy. “It would be nice to go there and do well. It’s a good links course. I’m going to go a play some links golf there before it starts. I’ve played Ballybunion very little. The last time I played there Patrick Sjöland won the Irish Open there and that was a long time ago.
“It’s the other side of the country for me but it would be really sweet to nick a victory there. I didn’t practice much at all over the winter. I barely hit a ball from October to a month before Mallorca but I was very happy with the way I played there and it has given me confidence going into Ireland.
“I’m really looking forward to the Irish Seniors Open and it would be a great one to win.”
Northern Ireland’s Jimmy Heggarty will also be hoping to capture his maiden Senior Tour title after a promising start to the season.
Heggarty, who won the Senior Tour Qualifying School in November, recorded his career best Senior Tour finish when he was runner up behind Mike Cunning in the season opening Aberdeen Brunei Senior Masters presented by The Stapleford Forum.
The Irish Seniors Open is one of the longest-running tournaments on the European Senior Tour schedule, with Ballybunion Golf Club hosting the 13th edition of the event.
At 6,598 yards, the par 71 Old Course is widely regarded as one of the world’s finest links golf courses.
Spectators attending the 13th edition of the Irish Seniors Open in association with Fáilte Ireland and AIB Bank can take advantage of a unique ticket offer with all season tickets priced at just €15.
There is also free parking at Ballybunion Golf Club, with the action starting at 8am on Friday June 5.