Sage Valley wants a Mulligan
 Thomas Mulligan (Co Louth) driving at the 6th tee with Glashedy Rock in the background during the first strokeplay round of the 2016 Irish Amateur Close Championship at Ballyliffin Golf Club (16/08/2016). Picture by  Pat Cashman

Thomas Mulligan (Co Louth) driving at the 6th tee with Glashedy Rock in the background during the first strokeplay round of the 2016 Irish Amateur Close Championship at Ballyliffin Golf Club (16/08/2016). Picture by Pat Cashman

Thomas Mulligan may have declared himself unavailable for selection for Irish boys golf this year, but he's very much available for travel to one of golf's most exclusive events.

The County Louth and Laytown and Bettystown star — a key man in Great Britain and Ireland's Jacques Leglise side last season — is the top-ranked Irish under 18 player in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.

And that's landed him a ticket to tee it up in the prestigious Junior Invitational at Sage Valley from April 20-22 — the junior golf equivalent of the Masters — giving him some crucial US experience as he gets ready to take up a golf scholarship at the University of Oregon later this year.

"It felt brilliant to get an invite to such a prestigious tournament," said Mulligan, who is coached by Shane O'Grady, the Black Bush professional who has helped Cavan twins Leona and Lisa Maguire.

"I've heard loads about it over the years, and it is just great that this year I'll have a chance to tee it up over there and see what it's like. 

 Thomas Mulligan (Co Louth) lining up his putt on the 15th green during the final round of the 2016 Irish Boys Amateur Open Championship at Castle Golf Club (01/07/2016). Picture by  Pat Cashman

Thomas Mulligan (Co Louth) lining up his putt on the 15th green during the final round of the 2016 Irish Boys Amateur Open Championship at Castle Golf Club (01/07/2016). Picture by Pat Cashman

"Competing against the very best junior players in the world will be great prep before I go stateside in August for college, so I'm really looking forward to it ."

Sage Valley is often compared to Augusta, not just because it is just 12 miles north of Augusta National in Graniteville, South Carolina, but because it makes no secret of the fact that it is trying to out-Augusta Augusta.

Keeping up with the (Bobby) Jonses appears to be the meaning of life for this super-exclusive and expensive club, which first saw the light of day in 2001.

“I guess you could say we have tried to imitate Augusta while taking every detail to the next level,” club founder Weldon Wyatt told Sports Illustrated back in 2005 — five years before the club started the Junior Invitational.

According to reports, every one of Sage Valley’s 180 members paid an entrance fee of $100,000. 

 The 18th green at Sage Valley

The 18th green at Sage Valley

And with accommodation available in six on-site “cottages”, one of which measures a mind-boggling 17,000 square feet, it’s no wonder they need members with deep pockets.

Not only was the golf course designed by Tom Fazio, but it also has a soundproof boardroom, a barbershop, two massage rooms for the in-house masseuse and a manicure and pedicure station.

With holes named Tea Olive, Dogwood, Crepe Myrtle, Magnolia and Azalea, the Augusta National comparisons are obvious. 

According to the Irish players who’ve played there — Robin Dawson and Paul McBride competed in 2014 — the hype is justified.

As for Mulligan, he turns 18 on April 7 but you won’t see him play any Boys events having decided earlier this season that the time has come to play Senior golf exclusively.

"I'm unavailable [for selection for Boys golf] because I decided to move to senior level due to me having played pretty much everything there is to play at junior level," Mulligan explained. 

"I wasn't going to be playing anything U18 really, so I felt my place would be better used by someone else on the Boys panel."

Surprisingly for some given he is a Leinster senior interprovincial and has been a leading light for the R&A selectors in recent years, Mulligan was overlooked for inclusion in the Irish Senior panel this season.