ONE of the most important and storied tournaments in Ireland, the Amateur Close Championship takes place in Connemara Golf Club from June 8 to 12. The tournament has long been a proving ground on which some of the island’s biggest stars have honed their competitive edge before embarking on glittering professional careers.
This annual event, played each year since 1893 (with the exception of the war years) is one of the highlights of the Irish Amateur golf scene and in this Walker Cup year, the winner will be hoping for greater things perhaps when Great Britain and Ireland play the USA in the biennial cup competition this September in New York.
“Connemara are naturally delighted that our great course, voted best links in Connacht by the Golfers Guide to Ireland this year, has been selected by the GUI to host their premier amateur championship in 2013,” says the club’s captain Declan Mannion.
“Our club celebrates 40 years of links golf in Connemara this year are we are delighted and honoured to have been selected to host this prestigious event. This event has a list of past winners that in recent years has become the equal of any amateur championship in the world.”
Whoever wins the AIG sponsored Irish Close Championship this week at Connemara, they’ll find it hard not to remind themselves of the company they will keep. In all, 144 competitors will tee off, each wondering if maybe this could be their big break on the way to something special. After all, the Close has been a rite of passage through which a large number of Ireland’s leading golfing lights have progressed on their way to stardom.
Philip Walton, Ronan Rafferty, Pádraig Harrington, Paul McGinley, Gary Murphy, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and, most recently, Shane Lowry have all taken their places in the pantheon of past winners of the championship. In fact, all Ireland’s major golf championship winners in the professional ranks count winning the Irish close as one of their achievements on the way to professional stardom.
Connemara recognises that this event has the potential to act as a springboard to encourage the next wave of young golfing talent in the area to one day follow in the steps of the famous winners of this championship. To this end, with the support of the EU Leader programme, new junior golf equipment has been bought and coaching schools are being set up by the club throughout the summer to introduce many of the local kids to the game of golf.
It’s hoped that the buzz around the amateur close, coupled with the new equipment and lessons provided, will encourage local kids to take up the game. The equipment is 75% funded by the EU and will be provided free of charge by the club in what is a significant and positive investment in youth golf in Connemara.
The event is open to the public and everyone is welcome to come along, admission is free. There is parking available and the Clubhouse bar and restaurant and proshop are open to visitors. For more, see www.connemaragolflinks.com or phone the proshop on 095-23502.