Portmarnock confirmed for 2019 Amateur Championship despite men-only policy

Portmarnock confirmed for 2019 Amateur Championship despite men-only policy
 Portmarnock Golf Club. Picture via  portmarnockgolfclub.ie

Portmarnock Golf Club. Picture via portmarnockgolfclub.ie

The R&A has confirmed that the 2019 Amateur Championship will be going to Portmarnock with the understanding that as the ban on taking the Open to single-sex clubs was not imposed until long after the initial decision to go to Portmarnock, it was only fair to respect that agreement.

And so Irish golf will have a huge year in 2019 with the Open at Royal Portrush and the Amateur at Portmarnock for the first time since 1949, when Ireland was declared a Republic and the event still went ahead despite the fact that we had left the Commonwealth.

Of course, the decision will lead to raised eyebrows after Muirfield voted to maintain its single gender status this year and R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said, "The Open is one of the world's great sporting events and going forward we will not stage the championship at a venue that does not admit women as members." 

On the seemingly contradictory decision to go to men-only Portmarnock, the R&A issued a statement to the Press Association as follows: 

"The invitation to Portmarnock pre-dated the Championship Committee's decision not to take The Open to golf courses at single-gender clubs and it was agreed by the Championship Committee at the time that all existing agreements concerning The R&A's amateur events would be honoured."

Rory McIlroy spoke during the Irish Open of his desire to see the event return to Portmarnock

I've always thought that Portmarnock was one of the best venues for The Irish Open because of its proximity to Dublin, its proximity to the airport. But obviously that issue is holding them back, as well.

We've had conversations about it, and you know, they are in the process of maybe taking the first few steps in maybe changing that rule. But I'm going to put as much pressure as I can on them to try and change it. I think I'd love to have the Irish Open there obviously but at the same time, it is 2016 and you know, these things have to change eventually.

With The Open going back to Royal Portrush, the way is clear for Portmarnock to be considered as an Open venue in a 21st century Ireland.

The removal of the men-only status is the big stumbling block with members joking that The Vatican is more radical and swift in its policy changes that the venerable Dublin club.

Asked during the Open at Royal Troon if there was anything that precluded the R&A from staging an Open Championship in the Republic of Ireland, the R&A's Chief Executive Martin Slumbers interpreted the question as being about Portmarnock rather than a perceived political barrier in terms of it being regarded as the "British" Open. 

He said "there would do, yes. In the round of our view that we'll only go to a mixed-gender club."

Landing the Amateur is a big boost to Portmarnock, which celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2019.

The club has a long history of hosting championships, including professional events such as the Irish Open and the Dunlop Masters, as well as prestigious amateur events including the Walker Cup (1992), the St Andrews Trophy, the Jacques Leglise Trophy, the Canada Cup and the Ladies’ British Open Amateur Championship.

The R&A also announced that The Boys Amateur Championship will return to Saunton for the first time since 1997, when Sergio Garcia won by 6&5 against Richard Jones, and will be played on the East and West courses. The Devon links has hosted events such as the St Andrews Trophy, the English Amateur Championship and the Ladies’ British Open Amateur Championship.

Elsewhere, The R&A has named three venues where the following events will be played for the first time; The Jacques Leglise Trophy match will be played at Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast, the Boys Home Internationals will be played at Ashburnham on the Welsh coast, and the Seniors Amateur Championship will take place at North Berwick in East Lothian.

R&A Championships and International Matches in 2019

  • The Amateur Championship, Portmarnock and The Island:  17 - 22 June
  • The 148th Open, Royal Portrush: 18 - 21 July
  • The Seniors Amateur Championship, North Berwick:  31 July - 2 August
  • The Boys Home Internationals, Ashburnham:  6 - 8 August
  • The Boys Amateur Championship, Saunton, East and West courses:  13 - 18 August
  • The Jacques Leglise Trophy, Aldeburgh: 30 and 31 August
  • The Walker Cup, Royal Liverpool: 7 and 8 September