Morgan hopes to Scratch local itch in Mullingar
CHAMPIONSHIP trophy winners abound in the strong 81-man field to contest the Grant Thornton Scratch Trophy at Mullingar GC today and tomorrow.
The prestigious 72-hole event has attracted virtually all the big names of Irish amateur golf, a tribute to its standing in the golfing calendar.
Irish Close title holder Dara Lernihan from The Castle heads the list of GUI domestic major-winners on view.
He is joined by East of Ireland winner Cian Curley, West of Ireland champion Rory Leonard, and South winner John Greene. North of Ireland and Irish Amateur Open champion Alan Dunbar has also made the trip to Mullingar hoping to add to his trophy collection.
The Bank Holiday weekend in the North has ensured a strong Ulster contingent, including holder Connor Doran from Banbridge.
There are a few notable absentees due to international commitments. Lytham Trophy holder Paul Cutler is on the St Andrews Trophy team playing the Continent of Europe in Italy.
Irish Boys champion and beaten North finalist Dermot McElroy is on the Jacques L'Eglise Trophy team in Italy, as is Paul Dunne, the Irish Youths title holder.
Luke Lennox and Leinster Youths champion Richard O'Donovan of Lucan are competing in the Belgian Youths championship.
The starting list for Mullingar is packed with internationals at all levels, including some of the older brigade.
Former Walker Cup winner Jody Fanagan, who also has the West of Ireland and South of Ireland titles on his CV, is playing, as is Jim Carvill, ex-East and South of Ireland champion.
Past Mullingar Trophy winners in the field are Paul Murphy (1984) of Killarney and Eoin O'Sullivan from The Island.
The event has been in existence since 1963 when the first winner was Joe Carr of Sutton. Since then Mullingar has seen the cream of Irish golfing talent take the trophy.
Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, Paul McGinley, Peter Lawrie, Padraig Harrington, Gary Murphy, and Darren Clarke all claimed victory at the midlands club en route to their professional careers.
There's also the wonder that a local Mullingar man hasn't won the Cup in any of the previous 47 stagings.
Surely local knowledge would have ensured that at least one member of the host club could have triumphed on home soil?
Still, Des Morgan travels in hope. Morgan is the most likely Mullingar member to succeed, and he has certainly given the event a good rattle.
"It's my big major of the year, isn't it?" he asked. "But it's funny. In some ways it's a lose-lose situation for a Mullingar player.
"If you don't win on your home course you're an eejit. If you do win, they'd say 'sure why wouldn't ye, aren't you playing on your own course?'.
"But that's a problem I'd certainly love to have and I'll be trying hard as ever this weekend."
Two years ago Morgan finished second to Lowry, but recalls: "There was no stopping Shane that year. I finished seven shots behind him, and I was five shots ahead of the nearest challenger.
"Last year I finished third. In the last few years I've had consistent top-four finishes. It's just a matter of getting across the line."
Today's programme is 36 holes, with the leading 50 and ties going forward to the final 36 holes tomorrow.