Fears that the prestigious East of Ireland Amateur Open could be reduced to the status of a glorified scratch cup have been averted with a new sponsor — "The d Hotel Drogheda" — and a bumper field set to descend on County Louth Club from June 2-4.
The traditional Whit weekend date has proved a difficult one for both the golf club and the championship organisers, Leinster Golf, in recent seasons with many of Ireland's top players opting to skip the annual trip to Baltray in favour of other events offering more World Amateur Golf Ranking points.
Long-time supporters of Irish amateur golf were saddened that the 72-hole strokeplay championship, which has been played at County Louth since 1941 when the great Joe Carr captured the first of his 12 titles, was losing its allure.
In reality, it was falling victim to the reality of amateur golf worldwide with players keen to obtain a WAGR ranking or improve their position by playing in the strongest fields possible.
With Irish amateur golf enjoying unprecedented success with 11 of our 42 Walker Cup caps in the last 91 years coming since 2007, our top players felt obliged to play in clashing overseas events that offered a greater bounty of WAGR points than the "East", which boasts Darren Clarke and Paul Dunne on its list of past winners.
It's a Catch 22 for the East, which fell between the Scottish Amateur Open and the St Andrews Links Trophy and attracted just five of the 17-strong Irish senior panel, leading to an E ranking by WAGR.
This year the event is clashing with the Brabazon Trophy at Frilford Heath but with the GUI's High Performance Committee deciding not to reimburse expenses for that event this year, 13 of the 16-strong Irish panel have entered the East with only Alex Gleeson, US-based Paul McBride and Naas' Jonathan Yates set to miss out.
The advent of the Bridgestone Order of Merit, which awards places on the Irish team for the Home Internationals to the top three points winners from the leading eight national and provincial amateur championships, is another reason for the strength of the field.
"I'm very pleased with the field," said Joe McNamara, Hon. Secretary of Leinster Golf. "After all, this is the main 72-hole strokeplay championship outside the Irish Amateur Open and it deserves to be ranked up there with the top events.
"There is still a chance that a couple of the senior internationals who are entered might go to the Brabazon Trophy if they are entered and are chosen for the St Andrews Trophy panel.
"But with the World Amateur Team Championships set for Carton House later this summer, we've attracted a good overseas entry with national teams are coming over to play the venue before the cut off for practice rounds and taking advantage to come up and play in a great Championship at Baltray."
After experimenting by spreading the event over four days last year, the "East" reverts to its traditional three-day format again this year with one round on Saturday and Sunday, June 2-3, before the leading 42 and ties play the final two rounds on Monday, June 4.
The top class home entry features Barry Anderson (The Royal Dublin), Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint), Robin Dawson (Tramore), Jamie Fletcher (Warrenpoint), Rowan Lester (Hermitage), Tiarnán McLarnon (Massereene), Ronan Mullarney (Galway), John Murphy (Kinsale), Peter O’Keeffe (Douglas), Mark Power (Kilkenny), Conor Purcell (Portmarnock), Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) and James Sugrue (Mallow).
But quite apart from defending champion Reece Black, there are several overseas entries with South Africa's Christo Lamprecht, Jayden Schaper, Clayton Mansfield and Therion Nel as well as entries from Iceland, Denmark, Argentina and Australia.
Championship hosts County Louth could not get a sponsor last year but they have now attracted "The d Hotel Drogheda" as part of a new partnership which will be mutually beneficial to both parties.
The deal extends beyond the Championship to include a new "Stay & Play" package designed to attract more golfers to the area.
Rory McNulty, General Manager of d Hotel Drogheda commented: "We are delighted to be associated with such an important and prestigious event in the golf calendar year.
"County Louth Golf Club has a strong reputation of being one of the finest links courses in Ireland and we look forward to developing a great partnership with the club, and to providing great hospitality and accommodation for golfers from home and abroad.