"South" changes "not taken lightly"; entries close in six weeks

"South" changes "not taken lightly"; entries close in six weeks
 The 13th on the Old Course at Lahinch

The 13th on the Old Course at Lahinch

There was plenty of wailing and gnashing of teeth when Lahinch and the Munster Branch brought in midweek stroke play qualifying for the South of Ireland Championship last year.

Those who work full time complained that instead of being able to head west for some practice on Friday afternoon before getting stuck in for Saturday’s first round, they had to effectively take a week off work.

That's certainly not good news but the organisers are also keen to get the best possible field for a prestigious event.

The difficulty in getting many top internationals to play was blamed on the format being less than attractive with some suggesting that 54 holes of strokeplay qualifying for the top 16 is the way forward.

The logic is that it would be more attractive to players who want to turn pro or those that simply want a better chance of qualifying.  It has also been argued that that format might improve the event’s strength rating, which was E last year when Stuart Grehan beat Colin Fairweather in the final. An E rating leaves the "South" trailing the Irish Amateur Open (B), the East (D), the West (D), the North (D) and the Interpros (D) and with the same rating as the Mullingar Electrical Scratch Trophy (E) and the Rosapenna Senior Scratch Cup (E). (See Irish ratings for 2015)

But in announcing that the June 22 closing date for online registration for this year’s 115th South of Ireland Championship, which will be sponsored by Pierse Motors and VW Ireland, the Championship committed also explained that there would be no change in the format

In announcing the July 20-24 event to the players, the Munster Branch wrote: 

“Similar to last year, there will be 36 Hole stroke play qualifier played over Wednesday and Thursday with the leading 64 competitors qualifying for match play commencing on Friday morning, 22nd July,
"The Championship Committee remains very conscious that recent changes to the Championship format, particularly the midweek start, may impact amateur golfers in full-time employment but the Committee wishes to reassure all competitors that these changes were not taken lightly and are designed to ensure that Ireland’s oldest Championship remains one of the prestigious tournaments on the circuit.
“Six of our successful International Team which won the Home Internationals at Royal Portrush GC last August played in the South of Ireland Championship and this year the South is, once again, the last major opportunity for our leading amateur golfers to impress selectors ahead of the Home Internationals which will be held at Nairn Golf Club, Scotland between 10/12 August.
"The South of Ireland is steeped in the history and tradition of Irish amateur golf and past champions Paul McGinley; Darren Clarke & Graeme McDowell used the South as a stepping stone to very successful professional careers. We really appreciate your support and participation to date and hope that you will be able to include the South in your schedule this year.
"New structures introduced by the GUI earlier this year, require that all entries must be made four weeks prior to the start of the Championship so you need to have registered online before midnight on Wednesday 22nd June 2016. To register, click on the following link https://www.golfnet.ie/tournaments/365/south-of-ireland-amateur-open

The strength of the field may have less to do with Lahinch’s efforts and more to do with the priorities of the top players, who have chances to play 11 major events in the 10 weeks that remain before the start of the South.

Winning world ranking points is wonderful if you are chasing an R&A call up or even an Irish cap. 

But when a championship is celebrating its 115th edition, getting your name on the trophy alongside the greats of the Irish game from Lionel Munn, John Burke and JB Carr through to the modern day champions such as Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and Graeme McDowell, means winning a piece of golfing immortality.