In-form Leona Maguire will be bidding to continue her winning start to 2009 when she defends the Lancôme Irish Women's Close Championship at Fota Island Golf Resort from May 16-20.
Regarded as the hot favourite to retain the title, she became the youngest winner of the matchplay crown last year when she beat twin sister Lisa as a mere 13-year old.
Now 14, she has made a remarkable start to the 2009 season winning every event she has entered to date.
In late March, she captured the inaugural Woodenbridge Scratch Cup, followed by the French Under 21 Championship at the start of April.
A week later, she became the youngest winner of the Helen Holm Scottish Strokeplay Championship title followed along with boosting Ulster to a fifth successive win in the Girls’ Interprovincials.
The month ended with an emphatic victory in the Irish Schools Championships when she partnered her twin sister Lisa to glory for Loreto College, Cavan.
Lisa has also made a solid start to 2009 finishing third at the Helen Holm and will be looking to claim her first piece of silverware of the season when the Championship tees off on May 16th.
Other players keen to capture the coveted crown will be previous champions Deirdre Smith (Co. Louth) and Karen Delaney (Carlow), as well as internationals Niamh Kitching (Claremorris), Gillian O’Leary (Cork), Dawn Marie Conaty (Ashbourne) and Victoria Bradshaw (Bangor).
There is also a host of junior internationals in the field, including the in- form Emma O’Driscoll (Ballybunion) and Laura McCarthy (Muskerry) with the talented Patrice Delaney (Birr) and Sarah Helly (Enniscrone) hot on their heels.
With valuable Order of Merit points on offer, all competitors will be looking to impress the Irish selectors ahead of next month’s announcement of the team of four to play in the Under-18 European Team Championships in Finland and the team of six to play in the Ladies European Team Championships in Slovenia, both 7-11 July.
The Championship begins Saturday May 16 with the first round of the Leitrim Cup, a 36-hole qualifying strokeplay event.
Sunday sees the completion of round two after which the leading 32 players will go into the Championship draw on Monday, concluding Wednesday morning, with those ranked between 33rd and 48th qualifying for the Ita Wallace Trophy.
The Lancôme Irish Ladies’ Close was first played in 1894, just one year after the foundation of the Irish Ladies’ Golf Union, the oldest national union or association in ladies’ golf. 2009 sees another consecutive year’s hosting of the event, excluding the war years.
SAT SUN TIMESHEET
09:00 11:20 Sarah Crowe (Tipperary) Emma Gilmore (Mountbellew) Patrice Delaney (Birr)
09:10 11:30 Leona Maguire (Slieve Russell) Gillian O'Leary (Cork) Mary Dowling (New Ross)
09:20 11:40 Marian Finn (Thurlus) Val Shannon (Douglas) Mary Geaney (Killarney)
09:30 11:50 Lisa Maguire (Slieve Russell) Laura McCarthy (Muskerry) Karen Delaney (Carlow)
09:40 12:00 Mary Sheehy (Tralee) Susan Curtin (Mallow) Ailish Thompson (Douglas)
09:50 12:10 Victoria Bradshaw (Bangor) Maria Dunne (Skerries) Anne McCormack Roscommon)
10:00 12:30 Deirdre Cahalan (Nenagh) Mary Crowley (Castletroy) Mary Lowney (Dunmore)
10:10 12:40 Niamh Kitching (Claremorris) Emma O'Driscoll (Ballybunion) Jenny Gannon (Co. Louth)
10:20 12:50 Karen O'Neill (Douglas) Deirdre Smith (Co. Louth) Helen Jones (Strabane)
10:40 13:00 Rhona Brennan (Bandon) Violet McBride (Belvoir Park) Mary Scully (Tralee)
10:50 13:10 Anna Molloney (Clonmel) Adrienne Crowley (Woodbrook) Noreen Granard (Portarlington)
11:00 13:20 Marie O'Sullivan (Mallow) Amanda Welch (Cork) Theresa Delahunty (Rathdowney)
11:10 13:30 Nora O'Connor (Mallow) Mary Kavanagh (New Ross) Julie Coyne (Youghal)
11:20 13:40 Grainne O'Connor (Skerries) Edel Coyne (Youghal) Maria Cahill (Abbeyleix)
11:30 09:00 Niamh Giblin (Dun Laoghaire) Rose Nagle (Fota Island) Claire Keating (Charleville)
11:40 09:10 Michele Quinn (Dundalk) Marie Carr (Athenry) Catherine Kavanagh (Mitchelstown)
11:50 09:20 Olivia O'Meara (Mitchelstown) Terri Byrne (Coolattin) Patricia McAllister (Laytown/Bettystown)
12:00 09:30 Muiriosa Connolly (Lahinch) Mary Mackey (Mallow) Kathleen O'Keeffe (Muskerry)
12:10 09:40 Siobhan O'Herlihy (Muskerry) Eileen McMullan (Donegal) Carmel Kearney (Mallow)
12:30 09:50 Olivia Conroy (Co. Longford) Yvonne Daly Ryan (Tipperary) Maura Breathnach (Monkstown)
12:40 10:00 Trish Doyle (Kanturk) Doireann Carney (Galway) Ruth Maguire (Corrstown)
12:50 10:10 Pat Doran (Donabate) Lillian Harrington (East Cork) Lynda Maher (Charleville)
13:00 10:20 Catherine Tucker (Limerick) Vicki Power (Corrstown) Charlene Reid (Royal Protrush)
13:10 10:40 Suzanne Corcoran (Portumna) Orla Barry (Galway) Sinead Keane (The Curragh)
13:20 10:50 Linda Toomey (Limerick) Tara Gribben (Warrenpoint) Fiona Healy (Headfort)
13:30 11:00 Caoimhe Quinn (Dungannon) Carla Reynolds (Seapoint) Aoife Lowry (Tipperary)
13:40 11:10 Dawn-Marie Conaty (Ashbourne) Sue Phillips (Woodbrook) Sarah Helly (Enniscrone).