Diminished cups get back up to Scratch
THE Scratch Cup, once a feature of the Irish golfing calendar, no longer holds the prestige it once had for elite players, but strenuous efforts are being made to remedy that situation.
A number of top clubs fly the flag for the leading golfers in Scratch Cups, notably Mullingar, but around the country, the format has reduced in status and numbers.
Is there hope? Well, golfers of nine handicap and under are being given a chance to target a series of Scratch Cups that culminate in a Grand Final.
Dubbed the 'TopGolfer Tour' and the brainchild of golf industry consultants Dermot Synnott and Robert Hill, the series offers nationwide competition.
"We saw how the Scratch Cups, which had been so popular, were declining, so we launched the TopGolfer Tour in 2010," said Synnott.
"It has a number of aims: to give meaning and relevance to Scratch Cups by giving the golfers top-quality events around the country; we are giving golf clubs a boost in green fees and business and we are enhancing the number of competitive outlets for the category-one golfers.
"One of the reasons we felt the Scratch Cups were diminishing was that golfers didn't always know when they were on and clubs didn't always market them or make an occasion of them.
"We have banners around the course, we have a Tour championship, we have a full schedule and we have a 36-hole final to round off the season."
Now in its third year, the Tour is a serious competitive circuit.
This year there are 43 Scratch Cups on the schedule. Senior events are for handicaps of plus to 4; Junior for handicaps 5 to 9.
The winners of the 43 events qualify for the Tour Championship final at Fota Island Resort on Saturday and Sunday October 6/7.
Prior to that, the Kelkin Revive Order of Merit play-offs take place at The K Club on September 23.
Synnott explained: "People who play in a number of our Scratch Cups can gain Order of Merit points.
"The top 30 in the Order of Merit play off at The K Club, with the top five gaining entry to the Tour Championship final and they compete for the overall prize with the 43 event winners at Fota Island.
"This year we have strengthened the schedule with new venues and we have over 8,000 members on our online golfing community. We had 4,500 competitors last year, which is nice revenue for the clubs.
"And we don't charge for registering at www.topgolfer.ie"
Last year's Tour Champion was former Irish international Jim Carvill (-1) of Warrenpoint. Second place went to four-handicap Fergus Golden of Mahon GC, and Mick Lyons of Westport (6) came third.
The 2011 Order of Merit winner was Keith Cohalan of Killeen.
Senior Scratch Cups
May 12: Dunmurry Springs; May 19: Loughrea; June 4: New Forest; June 9: Arklow; June 10: Killeen; June 17: Knightsbrook; June 24: Warrenpoint; June 24: Grange; July 1: South County; July 15: Mallow; July 22: Concra Wood; July 28: Bray; August 5 K Club; August 19: Dromoland Castle; September 2: Delgany; September 16: Blainroe.
Junior Scratch Cups
April 20: Castle; April 22: Lough Erne; May 12: Dunmurry Springs; May 13: Delgany; May 19: Loughrea; May 20: Glen of the Downs; May 27: Rosslare; May 27: Lee Valley; June 3: Dun Laoghaire; June 9: Arklow; June 10: Killeen; June 17: Enniscorthy; June 24: Grange; July 1: South County; July 15: Cork GC; July 21: Roganstown; July 22: Concra Wood; July 29: K Club; August 4: Ashbourne; August 6: Woodenbridge; August 6: Knightsbrook; August 19: Dromoland Castle; August 24: Rathsallagh; August 26: Naas; August 26: Mt Wolseley; September 9: Charlesland; September 16: Blainroe.
September 23: Order of Merit Play-offs, K Club.
October 6/7: TopGolfer Tour Championship, Fota Island.