IRELAND is set to host another major international tournament in 2016 when the Curtis Cup returns to this country for the first time since 1996.
An announcement confirming the venue is expected within a few weeks and there are two clubs in contention: Dun Laoghaire and Royal County Down.
My money is on Dun Laoghaire being honoured as hosts of the biennial Curtis Cup, which pits the top Great Britain and Ireland amateurs against their USA counterparts.
The South Dublin club staged a successful European Senior Ladies Team championships in 2009 and can be expected to utilise the expertise gained in that event for the Curtis Cup.
However, until the Ladies Golf Union makes the official announcement, there will be no comment from Dun Laoghaire.
Royal County Down, which hosted the Cup back in 1968, also has strong credentials, but having coped with 15 teams in 2009 for the Europeans, Dun Laoghaire could comfortably host the two-team Curtis Cup and deal with the crowds that would attend.
The GB and I team hasn't beaten the USA since 1996, when Ita Butler of Elm Park captained the side to victory at Killarney. That event attracted great crowds, despite the lack of an Irish player on the team.
This year, with US-based Stephanie Meadow, and Leona and Lisa Maguire in the GB and I squad, we are assured of Irish interest at Nairn, Scotland, from June 8-10.
Beyond that, with the twins likely to have turned professional before the next USA staging of the Cup in 2014, the ILGU expects to have a new generation challenging for places on this elite team.
David Kearney, the ILGU high performance director and head professional at Grange GC, is excited about the quality of young players coming through the ranks.
"We have some very talented 14- year-olds and some 17 and 18-year- olds who will be challenging for the Curtis Cup in 2014 and 2016. There are players with potential who can come to the fore over the next few years," said Kearney.
Among the elite squad hopes for the future are: Paula Grant of Lisburn, Chloe Ryan from Tipperary, Jessica Carty of Holywood GC, Victoria Craig (Clandeboye), Hannah Henderson (Ballyclare), Lisa O'Shea (Shannon), Niamh McSherry (Lurgan), Ariana Coyle Ruiz (Elm Park), Olivia Mehaffey (Royal Co Down Ladies), Jean O'Driscoll (Muskerry) and Niamh Ward (Lurgan).
Meanwhile, Meadow had another great win on the US college circuit, when she became the first University of Alabama player to win five times in collegiate women's golf.
Meadow won the weather-shortened Darius Rucker Inter-collegiate at Long Cove Club, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, last Sunday.
The 20-year-old shot a first-round 67 to lead by four shots and added a final-round 70 for a five-under-par 137 aggregate.
The win moves her to No 6 in the Women's Amateur world rankings. Leona Maguire is at No 7, and Lisa Maguire is No 28.
Meadow will play another collegiate event from March 16-18 before travelling to Scotland for a GB and Ireland Curtis Cup preparation weekend at Nairn from March 23-25.
This squad weekend became the focus of recent controversy involving England's talented 15-year-old Charley Hull, who is ninth in the world rankings.
Hull was one of only five amateurs to receive an invitation to the LPGA's Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first women's professional Major of the season which starts on Thursday, March 29. This resulted in her withdrawing from the GB and Ireland squad weekend and, as a result, she has been dropped from the panel.
She is now out of the Curtis Cup, barring an unlikely change of mind by the LGU or her attendance for at least part of the training weekend.
The LGU received a mixture of criticism and support for their hard-line stance, but they pointed out that the players had all agreed to attend this vital preparation.
They also offered Hull the chance to attend the squad sessions on Friday and Saturday and travel to the US on Sunday, March 25, but said that, to date, they had not received a response from the player or her representatives.
Gods shining on Stackstown's Ryan
THE golfing gods do sometimes relent and heap good things on its humble participants, as Sean Ryan of Stackstown has discovered.
Ryan, formerly Deputy Sports Editor of the Sunday Independent and author of a number of soccer books, has hit an extended purple patch over the last six months.
During this time, he has won the Dublin Journalists Golf Society President's (Roddy Hyland) Prize; was overall winner at Tulfarris in the DJGS, and also won a Christmas Hamper with the society.
He won two overalls in Stackstown's 'Thursday Club' and won his class twice in the club's Winter League.
To cap it all, Ryan, who has been playing golf for 44 years without a hole-in-one, had two aces -- both in January. The aces were each scored at Stackstown's sixth hole.
Last month's highlight was an eagle-two on the ninth hole at his club. This is a tough par-four, index three uphill hole. Winter conditions permitted teeing up in the rough. Ryan took driver and smashed his second shot all the way to the green and the ball obligingly dropped into the hole.
"The key was a lesson I had from Neil Felton, an assistant at the club, a few months ago and he has brought the enjoyment back to my golf," said Ryan.
Dunbar leads strong Sotogrande assault
IRELAND will have a strong GUI team at the European Nations Cup in Sotogrande from March 21-24.
The team is: Alan Dunbar (Rathmore), Niall Gorey (Muskerry), Dermot McElroy (Ballymena) and Reeve Whitson (Mourne).
Dunbar played on the winning 2011 GB and I Walker cup team and is a seasoned international.
Gorey played on the men's home internationals team, while McElroy competed for Ireland in the European Boys and the Home International championships.
Whitson did best of the Irish in the recent New South Wales Amateur Open championship in Australia when he reached the quarter-finals.
Grange hosts novel 'Race to July 2012'
GRANGE Golf Club is running an Open five-event series dubbed 'The Race to July 2012'.
The format is five singles stableford competitions culminating in a Grand Final on Monday July 23 and it is open to men, women, and professionals.
Best four cards of five counts for the Order of Merit. Cost is €40 per round or a 'five for the price of four' offer of €160. Dates are: (1) March 22; (2) April 26; (3) May 28; (4) June 28; (5) Grand Final July 23. Check out www.grangegc.com