The PGA Irish Region Championship has produced many photo finishes down the years so, standby for some of the same when the 102nd instalment of the tournament is stage at Mount Juliet from October 11 to 14, writes Tony McGee.
Among the thrilling finishes was David Mortimer’s 30 feet eagle putt on the 72nd green at Seapoint two years ago, to pip tour player Damien McGrane by one stroke, McGrane making birdie at the last hole. It was Connemara man Mortimer’s second time to win the title.
There was also an exciting finish at The Island in 1999 when Neil Manchip, now the GUI National Coach, beat Darren Clarke in the run-in and, at Belvoir Park in 1995, as Philip Walton and Paul McGinley exchanged the lead several times during the final round, before Walton claimed the title for a fourth time.
Mortimer, Manchip and Walton will be trying to add the title again at Mount Juliet but they can expect stiff opposition as a number of players are currently in sparkling form.
Just this week, Niall Kearney stormed to success in the Ulster Championship, at The Hilton, to finish at 12-under-par with five strokes to spare over Damian Mooney, Michael McDermott and John Kelly. Kearney, who also plays the Challenge Tour, will surely be boosted by that victory.
David Higgins has, probably, an unassailable lead in the 2012 Ping Race to Mount Juliet (Order of Merit) but the championship will, surely, have a major bearing on the points. David Ryan, having won the VW Southern Championship, at Powerscourt, has moved up into second place in the Ping Race with some excellent results lately.
Last year’s trap-to-line winner Simon Thornton, at Seapoint, is concentrating on the European Tour this season and it is not yet clear if he will defend the title. He is on the reserve list for this week’s clashing Portugal Masters in Vilamoura as he battles to retain his tour card.
Simon Thornton will not be defending his Irish PGA title. The Newcastle based professional looks likely to start in this week’s Portugal Masters at Vilamoura and has not entered the 102nd edition of the championship at Mount Juliet.