Murray delighted tradition has won out at Lahinch
TRADITION wins out at Lahinch where the 111th South of Ireland golf championship reverts to an all-match-play format after last year's experiment with stroke-play qualifying prior to the knockout stages.
The head-to-head format brings a magic all of its own and the South has maintained its huge popularity despite the recession, with over 270 entries and 192 making the handicap cut of 1.3.
Today, 64 matches will be played, with the lowest handicaps receiving a bye into tomorrow's second round.
Holder Stephen Walsh, along with former South champions John Greene (2010), Robbie Cannon (2009) and Simon Ward (2006) are among the Sunday starters.
Also in that group are last year's beaten finalist Andrew Hogan (Newlands), former Irish champion Pat Murray (Limerick), Gary O'Flaherty (Cork), who lost the '09 final to Cannon, Brendan Walton (The Island), and 18-year-old Jack Hume (Rathsallagh).
Murray was in Lahinch yesterday having travelled from Royal Co Down with the rest of the victorious Munster team which won the senior inter-provincial title on Thursday.
He's particularly happy to be at the South this week, because, at one stage, he was told he would miss it due to a ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered last December.
The prognosis was for a long rehab, but Murray pushed it as hard as he dared and got back playing golf in May.
"I'm pleased the South is gone back to match play. There's always a great atmosphere around Lahinch and around the match play, so I'm glad they've gone back to the traditional format," said Murray.
Recently crowned North of Ireland champion Rory McNamara of Headfort, who played for Leinster in the inter-pros, has withdrawn, as have Ulster's Reeve Whitson and Leinster's Kelan McDonagh, the beaten 2010 finalist.
The championship marks a special occasion for Noel Pyne, a past captain of Ennis and Lahinch golf clubs, as he makes a remarkable 50th consecutive appearance in the South.
Retired school teacher Pyne (66), a former Clare hurler, will play local Lahinch member Bob Loftus -- a former pupil of his at Ennis National School. Pyne's debut in the South came in 1963.