West of Ireland mulls strokeplay move due to 2019 date change

West of Ireland mulls strokeplay move due to 2019 date change
 County Sligo’s Championship links

County Sligo’s Championship links

County Sligo is tipped as a possible Dubai Duty Free Irish Open venue from 2020 but 72-hole strokeplay golf at Rosses Point could be the order of the day as soon as next year's West of Ireland Championship.

Bar 1996 to 1999, when it was played at Enniscrone due to problems with the greens, the magnificent Rosses Point links has hosted 93 of the 96 editions of the season-opening "West" which has been a matchplay event since it was inaugurated in 1923.

Given the demands now placed on amateur golfers and the fact that the "West" is moving to an early April rather than an Easter date next year to leave a six-week gap before it hosts the Flogas Irish Amateur Open, the Championship Committee will be asked to consider making it a four-round strokeplay event next season.

With no traditional Good Friday or Bank Holiday Monday next year,  a Thursday to Sunday staging from April 4-7 is likely to be at the top of the agenda when the Championship Committee next meets on November 16.

Whenever it's played, the event is likely to give the cream of Irish amateur golf a major test with new tees on the 14th, 15th and 17th, a newly extended burn at the 14th and a redesign of the infamous 17th green, the latest changes carried out by golf architect Pat Ruddy that will be ready for play in 2019.

Whenever it's played, the event is likely to give the cream of Irish amateur golf a major test with new tees on the 14th, 15th and 17th, a newly extended burn at the 14th and a redesign of the infamous 17th green, the latest changes carried out by golf architect Pat Ruddy that will be ready for play in 2019.

 Work on the burn at the 14th has been well received by the members of County Sligo

Work on the burn at the 14th has been well received by the members of County Sligo

"The new championship tee has added 20 metres to the 14th and the reconfigured burn is definitely in your face, there's no two ways about it," said David O'Donovan, General Manager of County Sligo of the snaking water feature that impinges on a player's psyche as they stand on the tee.

"The members have been really positive about it and think it's a great feature now and really adds to the hole.

"The burn was done the week before last and sleepers are now being used to bank it. The new 17th green was done a few weeks ago now, softening it on the right by taking out the mounding and giving ourselves some 12 new pin positions.

"We lifted turf from around the edge of our putting green and it took so well, we were cutting the redesigned green within 10 days. That's all knitted in now it will be in play for March. You could putt in it from today."

As for the momentous decision to play the "West" as strokeplay or matchplay, nothing has yet been decided.

"We are looking to see what's the best thing for the players,” O’Donovan said. "If you go for matchplay, you need Thursday to Tuesday. But with strokeplay, you could start on Thursday and have a 54-hole cut for the top 50 or 60 on Sunday.

"With no Bank Holidays, you are asking players to take an extra day off work and while the Friday to Tuesday format only affects 16 people on a Monday morning, it's still dragging the tournament out until Tuesday.

"If you go strokeplay, it might work better for players who work and lead to an even better field with the Irish Amateur Open six weeks later. 

"We have never had a strokeplay West of Ireland before but you have to look at all options. The Championship Committee and the Connacht Branch haven't even discussed it, but thinking aloud, it's a possibility."