WINTER LEAGUE GETS
The winter league began this week at Ballycastle Golf Club and the weather lived up to the forecast.
Strong winds and heavy rain battered the course over both days of the weekend but that wasn’t enough to stop the hardy golfers stepping out on the links.
This year’s Winter League is sponsored by PJ McIlroy & Son and runs for 10 weeks; it is played over 13 holes on both a Saturday and Sunday.
Conor McGarry (10) from Team Fairhead was the top point’s scorer in Division 1 on Saturday. Conor scored an impressive 31 points over the 13 holes in very tricky conditions, runner up was Gerard Waide (11) who also scored 31 points as did third place finisher David Higgins (13), with only their back nine holes separating the three men.
Division 2 was won by Gareth Curran (15), Gareth had two impressive birdies along the way to shooting a brilliant 36 points and record the top score of the weekend.
Gerard McCloskey (16) representing Team Glenshesk was the runner up with a super round of 35 points, third place on the podium went to Paul Brogan (17) with a fine return of 33 points.
Sunday’s weather wasn’t much better but there were plenty of entrants who braved the elements to return scores for their respective teams. Division 1 was won by Team Duncarbit’s Michael McAfee with 32 points, in a very consistent round which included 8 pars for the seventeen handicapper. Runner up was Kevin Traynor (16) with 29 points and third place went to Shaun McCook (18) after a round of 28 points.
After Week One of the Winter League, Team Glenshesk led the way from Team Bonamargy, with Team Shangarry in the dreaded “wooden spoon” place.
The New Year’s Day stableford was won by inform Kevin Traynor (16) with 30 points, from runner up Paul Surgenor (11), after Paul recorded a better last nine than Gerry Norwood.
Gerry also had 29 points and took the bronze medal and pipped Willis McWhirter in the process as Willis had to settle for 4th place.
Ballycastle’s next competition is Wednesday’s Open Stableford which runs throughout the winter and is only £10 for visitors to enter. For any tee time enquiries contact the Pro Shop on 02820762506.
ROYAL SWEEP WIN FOR BRIAN
Brian Lockhart carded 32 points over the fourteen holes in play at Royal Portrush GC on Saturday to clinch his sweep win.
The ten handicapper recovered from a blank hole to hit a birdy three at five which aided his points search no end as he got to 19 points for the first nine.
His birdie four at the long sixteenth and his bogey five at the last saw another 13 points added to keep Brian in the lead by two from John Allen on 30.
John, playing off 18 did not score at the fourth but played well enough otherwise to get 20 points pulled from the opening nine holes.
He dropped two shots on the remaining five holes for 10 points to secure second spot.
David Smith was third with another 30 pointer. He hit a great eagle three on the second before not scoring on the fifth, this meant a matching 20 points out with John Allen.
His double bogey six at the death did not help in the resulting tie break and third place it had to be.
DAVID MAGEE CUP GOES TO CLIVE
The early birds got the benefit of better weather on Sunday at Rathmore and Clive Shorter took best advantage of this, scoring 36 points from his handicap of 13.
While he blanked the sixth and eighth he dropped just two other shots and added in a fine birdie four at the fourth to gather 18 good points by the turn for home.
Another birdie, a two on eleven helped the cause as well and made up for another blank which came on the seventeeth.
A fine par to finish and Clive could add in another 18 points to get to 36 which clinched his win by one point.
This put Simon Carruthers into runners up spot on 35. Simon played very steadily to get his 18 points for the opening nine, a birdie three on five being the high point.
Ten gave up a birdy four and Simon dropped in a putt on fifteen for another bird, sandwiched between these was an unfortunate blank on the fourteenth and this restricted Simon to 17 points back for his 35 total.
Rory Houston came out of the Gross enclosure for a change to take third spot with 33 points.
The two handicapper was three over for the opening nine for 16 points. His only birdie of the round came with a two on eleven and he covered the back nine in two over par for another 17 points.
It was Ian Kettyle who picked up the Best Gross for his round of 71. Ian took birdies from the long fourth and the short fifth but slipped to a double bogey six on the seventh to be out in 36 shots.
His two at eleven evened up a bogey five at seventeen before a nasty six on the last meant a back none of 35 had to be settled for and this took the round to 71.
ROGER TAKES EARLY LEAD IN JOHN FREEMAN TROPHY
Roger Hamilton took Bushfoot by storm on Saturday scoring 43 points to take an early lead in the nine week John Freeman Memorial Cup.
He had scored very well over the first eight holes but then dropped in a birdie at nine to get to 24 points out. He continued to score well, without birdies this time, but blanked twelve and fourteen.
This did not stop him adding 19 points to the card for his table topping 43. Also in Division Two Mervyn Greer was scoring heavily, hitting 42 points, to get second spot.
No birdies or blanks on the way out gave the card 22 points and, although he did blank twelve, he gathered another 20 to secure second spot.
In Division One it was Lennie McIlroy at the head of the list with 40 points coming from his eleven handicap.
His two at the short second was his only birdie so the rest came from very steady scoring, 18 out and a good back nine of two over par getting Lennie 22 points for his 40 overall. Nigel Shannon was runner up in the First Division with 39 points.
Nigel did not blank any holes and scored 21 out with 18 coming from the inward nine.
GMAC DOESN’T WANT TO MISS OUT
It has never been more difficult for Europe or the United States.
“I do not want to be missing out on that one,” Graeme McDowell said last month at the end of a most successful season.
The former US Open champion and Ryder Cup hero from Wales in 2010 won three times last year, including the World Match Play Championship in Bulgaria. He finished the year at No. 14 in the world, behind five Europeans - Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter.
But there are no guarantees in golf, especially in this era of great depth. McDowell goes into the year outside the top nine in the standings (four from European Tour money, five from world ranking points, both earned since September).
Both captains, Tom Watson and Paul McGinley, have three wild-card selections. Both teams have young players who were never part of the Ryder Cup conversation until now, whether that’s Jordan Spieth of Texas or Victor Dubuisson of France.
“There’s going to be two or three guys who miss,” McDowell said.
“Good players. Quality players. I assume McGinley’s wild cards are going to be very hotly contested. No doubt it’s going to be a tough team to get on.”
It’s like that for America, too.
All anyone has to do is look at the Presidents Cup last October, not because of who played for the American team, but who didn’t.
Jim Furyk was left off the team when US captain Fred Couples picked Spieth, and it was hard to fault him for that.
Dustin Johnson, whom many regard as the best American talent under 30, didn’t make the team and wasn’t picked. Former Masters champion Bubba Watson stayed home. Rickie Fowler hasn’t played on a U.S. team since he was a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup in Wales.
“It certainly is getting harder now that, and I think the American players are hungry for it, so they’re playing and they’re working,” Zach Johnson said.
“They are grinding and they want to make that team. It’s harder to make those teams.”
Last year, Johnson couldn’t help but look at the rosters and say, “He deserved to be on the team,” or “How do you not take that guy?”
“The obvious one was Jim,” he said. “How was he not on the team?”
Furyk had not missed a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team since 1997. Then again, Furyk was 43 and every year gets a new class of young players who made it even harder.
Europe was at its strongest in the middle of the 2000s decade. Again, the strength was measured more by who didn’t make the team. That prompted Colin Montgomerie to say in Ireland in 2006 that Europe had reached a stage where it could field two quality teams. It used to be the Europeans barely had enough for one.
Rose and Poulter didn’t make the `06 team. Darren Clarke was left off the 2008 team, even though he had won twice that year. Garcia didn’t play in 2010.