Former "West" winners and competitors chase Masters glory.
Young (and Old) Irish Amateurs look to follow in the footsteps of this years Masters protagonists in County Sligo
As is often the case this time of year, Irish Golfers will be keeping an eye on proceedings at Augusta, while also monitoring the progress of the country's top amateurs who compete in the West of Ireland at the magnificent County Sligo Golf Club. Alan Fahy returns to defend his title at Rosses Point, which has hosted Ireland's greatest golfers down the years. On the journey to Superstardom, both Rory McIlroy (2005 and 2006) and Shane Lowry (2008) lifted the West of Ireland crown in County Sligo. Rory's faithful caddie Harry Diamond is also a former winner having won the title in 2012. Padraig Harrington (1994) is also a former winner who has competed in the Masters countless times. Matt McClean's phenomenal victory at last years US Mid-Am secured his place in this years Masters while the beaten finalist in the mid-am, Hugh Foley returns to County Sligo for another tilt at the title he won in 2021. No doubt, Hugh would love to be competing at Augusta but lots of guys would love to have their name on the board of champions at County Sligo Golf Club. Apart from the aforementioned superstars, the roll of honour includes names such as Burke, Ewing, Carr, Smyth, Pierce, Fanagan McGimpsey and Kearney among others.
All the names mentioned above are legends of the game in Ireland - some as career amateurs while others went on to become very successful pros. While the Masters is the first Major of the season, the "West" is the first Major of the amateur championship season in Ireland. As can be seen the from the roll of honour above, Rosses Point has played no small role in the development of future superstars and legends. County Sligo is a championship links that has produced some dramatic moments down the years and 2023 is sure to be no different.
For yours truly the event holds a very special place in my heart. While it has produced so many hero's of Irsh Golf, it also gives part-time golfers the opportunity to make a name for themselves. While winning the West was just a stepping stone for Rory and Shane (and others) on their pathway to future glories, victory in County Sligo was a lifetime achievement for me and others. For one special week, even my bad shots bounced back into play and the badly struck putts that were misread somehow found the bottom of the hole. In the 2007 final against Paul Cutler (winner 2011), it seemed as if I could be blindfolded and putts would still drop. The welcome I receive to this day from the people in County Sligo on returning for "The West" has always made me feel like a superstar.
All of Ireland will be cheering on Rory, Shane, Seamus and Matt this weekend at August. The competitors at The West will enjoy watching the Masters on TV after coming in off the links at Rosses Point and who knows maybe take some inspiration from them. I know I certainly took some when watching an outsider, Zach Johnson win the Masters in 2007.
Realisitcally and truthfully speaking, there is no place in the world, I would rather be this weekend than competing in County Sligo and meeting friends old and new. Someday in the not too distant future, when I cant get a place in "The West", I will go to watch the drama unfold at Augusta, but hopefully it will be in a year when the dates don't clash with the West.
So will we see an Irishman don the Green Jacket on Sunday evening? Here's wishing all four Irishmen the very best in Augusta this weekend. And will we see another future superstar win at County Sligo or will we someone else fulfill a lifetime achievement by putting their name up in lights alongside all the greats of the past?
So so excited now - let the 2023 season begin with 2 Majors this Easter Weekend.
Finally if anyone wants to inquire about golf at County Sligo and other championship links in Ireland make sure to drop us a line at [email protected].
Until again, down the middle,