Shane Lowry is hoping to complete a famous Co Louth double when he makes his debut in the Ladbrokes.com Irish PGA Championship at Seapoint from September 23-26.
The 23-year old Clara native made history at nearby Baltray last year when snatched the 3 Irish Open in a play-off to become just the third amateur to win a European Tour event.
The 100th staging of the Irish Professional Championship will have a prize fund of €30,000 this year - an increase of €4,000 - with Lowry and Kells’ Damien McGrane hoping to deny course co-designer Des Smyth his seventh domestic crown.
However, organisers are hopeful that more of Ireland’s European Tour regulars will tee it up at the classic links designed by Smyth and amateur great Declan Branigan.
Local resident Smyth, 57, has claimed six Irish PGA wins in five different decades. That places him third in all-time list of winners alongside Padraig Harrington, who completed a hat-trick of wins at The European Club last year.
Harrington could not commit to the event this year and hopes to be putting the finishing touches to his Ryder Cup preparations and challenging for the $10m FedEx Cup bonus in the clashing Tour Championship in Atlanta.
The Irish PGA will be played the week before the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor and clashes with the European Tour’s inaugural Vivendi Cup 2010 in Paris - a new pro-am style event that has attracted big names such as Paul McGinley, Thomas Bjorn and Ryder Cup skipper Colin Montgomerie.
Lowry has made room in his schedule to tee it up and it remains to be seen if players such as Peter Lawrie, Simon Thornton, Michael Hoey, Gareth Maybin or Gary Murphy will follow suit.
Lowry said: “I am thoroughly looking forward to playing in the Irish PGA Championship next month. Since turning professional in May 2009 I rarely get to compete in Ireland outside of the Irish Open and obviously I love to compete here.
“Thankfully the Irish PGA Championship fits nicely into my schedule this season and I am looking forward to taking on a strong field of predominantly Irish pros.
“Seapoint is very close to Baltray where I have many fond memories, and hopefully at Seapoint I can add another Irish win to my list of achievements.”
Lowry will line up alongside Ireland’s top PGA professionals including newly-crowned Glenmuir PGA Professional champion David Mortimer (Fore Ireland) and past Glenmuir winner John Dwyer (Ashbourne).
Irish PGA regional secretary Michael McCumiskey said: “It’s fantastic that Shane Lowry, the last home-grown winner of the Irish Open, is going to take part as it is a great way to celebrate the 100th staging of the Irish PGA Championship.
“It’s also great to see the likes of Damien McGrane and Des Smyth also participating in what is the pinnacle event on our schedule.
“It promises to be a memorable event at Seapoint given that it is the 100th staging of the event and there’s an opportunity for a different winner this year in the absence of Padraig Harrington.”
Sponsors Ladbrokes, who have ensured a significant prize fund is on offer to the field, are anticipating an intriguing battle between the Tour stars and Irish region regulars.
Bryan Coleman, Irish territory manager for Ladbrokes.com, said: “It is a great honour for Ladbrokes.com to again be associated with the Irish PGA Championship.
“Now in its 100th year, the Ladbrokes.com Irish PGA Championship will be a magnificent opportunity for Irish PGA players to showcase their talents and stamp their mark on this prestigious championship.
“It is also great news that players such as Des Smyth, Shane Lowry and Damien McGrane will be teeing off alongside their Irish PGA colleagues to ensure the winner of the 100th Ladbrokes.com Irish PGA Championship will be a deserving champion.”
The tournament was first competed for in 1907 and only suspended during World War One.
The list of former champions is a who’s who of Irish golfing greats headed by 10-time winners Harry Bradshaw and Christy O’Connor, 1947 Open champion Fred Daly, Darren Clarke, Philip Walton, McGinley, Michael Moran, David Feherty and Eamonn Darcy.