Mullingar a cradle of champions
The senior domestic season comes to a gripping finale at a course that has been the making of some of Ireland's finest golfers
Fifty-seven years have passed since the great Joe Carr won the first edition of the Mullingar Scratch Trophy in 1963 and while the event always had major ambitions, few could have imagined that the magnificent James Braid parkland on the outskirts of Mullingar would become a cradle of champions.
We are not just talking of great amateur champions in the domestic game but Major champions, Ryder Cup winners and European Tour victors.
Sponsored by Sherry Fitzgerald Davitt & Davitt and organised in conjunction with Leinster Golf, this weekend's Mullingar Scratch Trophy will bring the senior domestic season to an exciting conclusion as the final counting event for the Bridgestone Order of Merit - the new name for the Willie Gill Perpetual Trophy.
The top three points-winners will be awarded places in the Irish team for the Home International Matches scheduled for Lahinch from September 11-13.
But while Mullingar stunning course became instantly famous when Carr won the inaugural staging of the Scratch Trophy in 1963, whoever adds his name to the list of winners on Sunday will be joining some august company.
The event has provided four major winners in Open champion Shane Lowry (2008), Rory McIlroy (2006), Padraig Harrington (1994) and Darren Clarke (1989).
European Tour winners, Peter Lawrie (1996), Paul McGinley (1991), Philip Walton (1982), Des Smyth (1972) and Peter Townsend (1965 & '66) had their day in the sun and so too did Challenge Tour winners Raymond Burns (1992) and Colm Moriarty (2001 & '03).
McIlroy, Moriarty, Harrington, McGinley, Walton, Townsend and Carr all played Walker Cup and so too did John McHenry (1986), Garth McGimpsey (1985), Peter Benka (1970) and Tom Craddock (1964).
As for the Ryder Cup, the fact that McIlroy, Harrington, McGinley, Clarke, Walton, Smyth and Townsend all won in Mullingar before stepping foot on that stage says much about the quality of the event.
A long list of Irish championship winners is in the field this weekend, including Tiarnan McLarnon from Massereene, Naas' Robert Brazill, Hermitage's Rowan Lester, Douglas' Peter O'Keeffe, Warrenpoint's Colm Campbell and Portmarnock Links' Gary Cullen.
Only defending champion McLarnon and Alan Lowry, brother of Shane, will be looking to join the likes of Townsend, Martin O'Brien and Mark Gannon on the elite list of two-time winners.
Mullingar's Liam Grehan, a recent semi-finalist in the North of Ireland Championship at Portstewart, will lead the quest for a first homegrown winner and Leinster Golf and Mullingar's Albert Lee is excited about the weekend ahead.
"We are really looking forward to welcoming all the players to the 57th consecutive staging of the Mullingar Scratch Trophy and very grateful to Sherry Fitzgerald Davitt & Davitt for coming on board as sponsors again this year," he said.
Past 20 winners of Mullingar Scratch Trophy
2018 Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene)
2017 Stuart Grehan (Tullamore)
2016 Ronan Mullarney (Galway)
2015 Alan Lowry (Esker Hills)
2014 Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock)
2013 Daniel Holland (Castle)
2012 Brian Casey (Headfort)
2011 Nicky Grant (Knock)
2010 Kelan McDonagh (Athlone)
2009 Connor Doran (Banbridge)
2008 Shane Lowry (Esker Hills)
2007 Paul O'Hanlon (The Curragh)
2006 Rory McIlroy (Holywood)
2005 Gareth Shaw (Lurgan)
2004 Greg Bowden (Hermitage)
2003 Colm Moriarty (Athlone)
2002 Eoin O'Sullivan (The Island)
2001 Colm Moriarty (Athlone)
2000 Johnny Foster (Ballyclare)
1999 Tim Rice (Limerick)