Net pain puts Reddan out of the west
THE entry list for the first Major of the season is fully subscribed ... but with one notable exception.
No, I'm not talking about the Masters at Augusta. The tournament in question is The Radisson Blu West of Ireland championship at Rosses Point from April 2-6, and the absentee from the opening GUI 'Major' is past winner Barry Reddan.
Therein lies a tale of modernity versus tradition, but first let's reflect on Reddan's competitive situation.
The County Louth GC man holds the Connacht and Ulster Seniors titles, and has a handicap of 1.2 -- losing one point last Sunday in a club event.
He would qualify for the West on the basis of that championship committee's enlightened rule whereby they extend an invitation to former champions whose handicap is within one shot of the cut-off mark.
This year the cut-off for entries in terms of handicap was 0.7, indicative of the quality required merely to get the opportunity of teeing it up in a GUI championship these days.
At 1.2 handicap, Reddan would easily meet the requirements for a past champion to qualify, and throughout the big freeze he was gearing up to compete in the West, a championship he has played virtually every year since 1975.
He won it in 1978, and for a player of that vintage to be still competitive enough to be a only a few decimal points away from the actual cut-off mark is indeed remarkable.
However, Reddan won't be playing due to a mix-up over the entry format. Customarily, he has received the entry form in the post, and duly returns it.
Unfortunately, the entry is only online this year, and Reddan wasn't aware of that fact.
"I do use the internet regularly but I don't live on it like the young guys do, and I had no idea the entry form for the West was to be sent in online.
"I was away on holidays early in the month, but I wasn't worried about the West," Reddan said.
"I was expecting the usual practice, which is for the entry form to come in the post. Then the first I heard that there might be a problem was when I was told the draw for the West was in the papers and my name wasn't in it.
"I rang Enda Lonergan, the Connacht Secretary, and he said the draw was made, and there was nothing to be done. It's very disappointing. None of the other championships have the past winners rule, and I think it's a good one.
"You still have to be competitive to be able to hold your handicap that close to the cut-off, and I was looking forward to playing at Rosses Point again."
Lonergan appreciated Reddan's distress, but said: "As I explained to Barry, 214 players entered online. We've had our biggest-ever entry. It was well flagged in advance that this was the way entries would be taken."
The only other player to avail of the past-champions rule is Stuart Paul of Tandragee, winner of the West in 2002. Paul has a handicap of 0.9.
It must be said that in these days when provincial and Irish champions tumble out the door as fast as possible to join the professional ranks, it's a pity that an extra effort is not made to maintain links with the past.
From 1994-2009 inclusive, the West has been staged 16 times. Last year's winner, David Corsby of Royal Lytham, has since turned professional and won't be defending his title.
In turning pro, Corsby is emulating the majority of those who win this coveted piece of silverware.
Padraig Harrington (1994), Eamonn Brady (1995 and 2000), Noel Fox (1998), Miko Ilonen (1999), Michael McDermot (2001), Paul McDonald (2004), Rory Ilroy (2004 and 2005), and Shane Lowry (2008) are all now in the paid ranks.
Only Garth McGimpsey (1996), Jody Fanagan (1997), Stuart Paul (2002), Mark Ryan (2003) and Joe Lyons (2007) remain amateur of those 14 champions since '94.
On Friday week, Good Friday, 126 players will open their bid in the first round of stroke play qualifying. The championship will finish with the semi-finals and final on Tuesday April 6.