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Monday 20 October 2014

Locals tee-off

Published 15/04/2014 | 05:40

Gary McDermott, one of the leading local hopes for the West of Ireland golf championship.

A number of local players are lining up a strong challenge for the Radisson Blu sponsored West of Ireland Amateur Open at Co. Sligo GC.

A number of local players are lining up a strong challenge for the Radisson Blu sponsored West of Ireland Amateur Open at Co. Sligo GC.

The host club is strongly represented in the draw while a number of locals are also entered in the pre-tournament qualifier.

After winning the national Senior inter-club Cup in 2013, Co. Sligo harbour hopes of a strong showing in the West over the Easter week-end.

Among the leading local hopefuls are Declan Reidy, Stephen Brady, Steffan O'Hara, Gary McDermott and Sean Flanagan.

Defending champion, Rory McNamara, who has strong family links with Sligo, will be back to defend his title but will face stiff opposition from one of the strongest fields in years.

Former winners, Joe Lyons, Rory Leonard and Harry Diamond will be among the main contenders while others expected to make a bold bid for the coveted title are Dermot McElroy, Robbie Cannon, Reeve Whitson and Niall Gorey.

The cut-off fell at 0.0 again and there is likely to be a titantic battle for the Championship which begins on Good Friday and runs until the following Tuesday.

The pre-Championship Qualifier, which takes place tomorrow has attracted 290 entries.

Six players from the Qualifier are guaranteed a place in the first round draw with the promise of more in the event of withdrawals.

"The entry for the Qualifier was beyond our wildest dreams, " said General Secretary of the Connacht Branch of the GUI, Enda Lonergan.

He added: "If we get between three and six withdrawals from the Championship draw, as we usually do, it could mean that between nine and twelve players will emerge from the Qualifier."

Among the Sligo players entered in the Qualifier are Adrian Wynne, Strandhill, Serryth Heavey, Co. Sligo, Shane Underwood, Co. Sligo, Ryan O'Doherty, Enniscrone, Mark Rooney, Co. Sligo and Daniel Dolan, Tubbercurry.

The 'West' kicks off the Irish amateur Championship season and is rightly regarded as one of the marquee events on the domestic circuit.

Now in its 91st year, it continues to hold a special place in the local sporting calendar and will be partcularly important this year as Sligo celebrates its European Town of Sport award.

The status of the 'West' is enhanced by the many world famous players who have lifted the prestigious trophy over the years.

Larry Vernon from South Africa was the first winner way back in 1923 and the roll of honour includes such household names as Cecil Ewing, Joe Carr, Padraig Harrington, Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy.

Not only is it a wonderful sporting event but the 'West' is also hugely significant in terms of boosting the local economy.

It has become synonymous with Easter in Rosses Point over the decades and this year's Championship will once again attract hundreds of visitors to the area.

As appealing as ever, the 'West' has a capacity for producing plenty of surprises and there's every reason to expect high portions of drama and excitement before the destination of the coveted trophy is decided next Tuesday.

Sligo Champion

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