Naas ace Yates confident of claiming more 'West' success
Former champion Jonathan Yates is gunning for his second win in three years in the Radisson Blu-sponsored West of Ireland Amateur Open at Co Sligo.
The Naas ace (24) lost in the first round when he returned to defend the title last year but having played well early this season to earn a call-up for Ireland for the Nations Cup in Sotogrande next month, he's playing with nothing to lose an everything to gain on a course he loves.
"I've been playing lovely all season," said Yates, who was Ireland's leading qualifier in the Spanish Amateur Championship recently. "So I suppose I have absolutely no pressure now that I have been picked for the Nations Cup.
"I am just here to try and lead the qualifying and win again. It was trickier to come here last year as defending champion when I had higher expectations, qualified second and lost in the first round.
"This year, I feel I can just go out and play."
The introduction by the GUI this year of the new Bridgestone Order of Merit has helped the West attract a very strong field with eight members of the Irish senior squad in action.
And with the two leading points winners from the eight main championships at the end of the season earning their places on the Irish team for the Home Internationals, there's plenty at stake.
Defending champion Barry Anderson, who became the first Rosses Point man to win since Cecil Ewing in 1950, will be keen to start the points race strongly after failing to get an international call-up last year.
But all eyes are on the likes of Yates, Tramore's Robin Dawson, Castle's Alex Gleeson, Irish Amateur Open champion Peter O'Keeffe, former Irish Close champion Tiarnan McLarnon and 17-year old Irish Boys champion Mark Power.
There will be a shotgun start for the 126-strong field at 9am and 2pm today and tomorrow with the leading 64 players qualifying for matchplay combat from Sunday with the semi-finals and final on Tuesday.
Elsewhere, Castlewarden's Lauren Walsh carded a two-over 73 to lead the Irish challenge in the Esmond Trophy for the French U-21 Championship at Saint-Cloud in Paris.
She's tied for 24th behind Italy's Clara Manzalini, who fired a sensational, bogey-free 64 to lead by three shots from France's Candice Mahe on seven-under-par.
Killarney's Valerie Clancy and Lurgan's Annabel Wilson are joint 35th after 74s with Kanturk's Mairead Martin 47th after a 75 in the race to make the top 32 after 36 holes who qualify for the matchplay stages.
Ireland are eighth in the Nations Cup, 13 strokes behind Italy.