Wednesday, May 23, 2018

World Amateur Team Championships 2018 - 100 Days

The countdown is on to the world’s biggest amateur team golf event… and it’s in Ireland.
It is just under 100 days until the World Amateur Team Championships tee off at Carton House on 29th August. The Championships are coming to Ireland for the first time in their history and the two tournaments – the Eisenhower Trophy (men) and Espirito Santo Trophy (women) – will see top amateur golfers from over 72 countries competing over the Montgomerie and O’Meara courses.
The view of Carton House from the 18th green (Montgomerie)
These Championships are the breeding ground of many for the most famous names in golf. Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, Colin Montgomerie, Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy have fought for the Eisenhower Trophy, a tournament which dates back to 1958. The Espirito Santo Trophy came a few years later, in 1964, and Suzann Pettersen, Paula
Creamer, Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and Nancy Lopez have all competed for their countries. 
It means that the best male and female amateur golfers in the world will be competing practically side by side. As such, it is an important reminder that golf embraces both sexes and that this is one of the sport’s strengths. Indeed, Irish Sports Monitor’s recent report on sports participation in this country shows that the gap between male and female participation has narrowed from 15.7 per cent to 4.5 per cent over the past decade. Golf has played a large role in that reduction and events like the World Amateur Team Championships showcase a sport that provides a level playing field.
The two trophies - Eisenhower on the left.
Eisenhower Trophy
USA President, Dwight D. Eisenhower consented to the naming of the championship prize as the Eisenhower Trophy, in 1958. He welcomed representatives of the amateur golf associations of 35 countries at the White House, and said of the championship: I visualize it, as you do, as a potent force for establishing goodwill and friendship between yet another segment of the populations of nations.”
This goodwill and friendship remains key to both the men’s and the women’s tournaments but that doesn’t make it any less competitive. Each country’s team is made up of three players who compete over four rounds, with the best two scores to count from each round.
Australia won the most recent Eisenhower Trophy, in 2016, by 19 strokes. Out of the 71 nations competing, Ireland were tied for third, 20 shots behind. It was Ireland’s best ever performance and the team comprised Paul McBride, Jack Hume, and Stuart Grehan.
Devious bunkering weaves across the Montgomerie course.
In 2014, in Japan, Ireland finished in tied 11th place behind winners USA. All three members of the team have since turned professional. Gavin Moynihan and Gary Hurley are continuing their efforts to make the big breakthrough in the professional game, but Paul Dunne is now an established world-class player, ranked 70th in the world.
In all my time in amateur golf, this was the hardest team to make as you have to make a team of three,” Paul said at the launch of the 100 Day Countdown at Carton House, yesterday morning.“It’s the pinnacle of national amateur golf, in my mind anyway.It’s a great spectacle for golf and I think people should turn up to watch. They’ll see a lot of future champions.”
It is worth noting that in 2014, Bryson DeChambeau holed the final putt for the USA, while Spain’s Jon Rahm smashed the record for the lowest individual score (-23 for four rounds). It is a fabulous opportunity for Irish golf fans to get close to the professional golf stars of tomorrow.
Espirito Santo Trophy
The same is true for the Espirito Santo Trophy. Maria Dunne, one of Ireland’s most successful Irish amateurs, competed in 2014, alongside Paula Grant and Mary Doyle. She, too, was at Carton House on Monday, and reflected on the importance that home field advantage brings. 
Dun Laoghaire was phenomenal,” she said of her experience competing in the 2016 Curtis Cup. “It raises your ability to step up another level with home support. They want to see you doing well and the support was unbelievable.” 
Tee shot over the river on the par three 14th on the O'Meara.
Ireland’s best finish was at the last championships, in 2016, when Leona Maguire, Olivia Mehaffey and Annabel Wilson came third, behind South Korea. It should be pointed out that in both the men’s and women’s tournaments, Ireland has only been competing as an individual nation since 2002. Prior to that it was a Great Britain & Ireland team… and one which included Mary McKenna on four occasions.
There will be a maximum of 72 countries competing in the Eisenhower Trophy, while approximately 60 will contest the Espirito Santo Trophy. Much, however, has still to be determined. Final team selections will not be announced until the end of July, and the 72 countries for the Eisenhower have also yet to be confirmed as over 80 countries wish to enter a team. 
The backdrop of Carton House will form a marvellous spectacle for the anticipated 10,000 spectators. Tickets are free of charge (simply register at and with Carton House’s experience of hosting three Irish Opens, the infrastructure and organisation will undoubtedly run like clockwork. The Montgomerie and O’Meara are two big and dramatic golf courses and the exposed, links-style setting of the Montgomerie and its 127 deep bunkers will prove a severe test.
The charming par three 16th on the O'Meara.
Pat Finn, Chief Executive of the GUI, said: "This is the first time that Ireland has hosted an amateur golf tournament on this scale. In every aspect, the World Amateur Team Championships is a spectacular event. It is a rare opportunity to see so many of the world's best golfers in action. This momentous occasion will act as a boom to the local economy in north Kildare, with restaurants, pubs and hotels in demand throughout August and early September."

As part of the arrangements, there will be an Athlete Village in Maynooth University, just 5 kilometres away. The majority of the 1,000 players and officials will stay here and there’s no doubt that both Maynooth and Carton House will be hopping for the best part of two weeks. 
People tend to collect these pins from every country,” Paul Dunne said, “and especially during the opening and closing ceremonies there’s a lot of mixing between the countries. And then, when it comes to the competitive aspect, everyone sticks to their own country until they can have a party at the end.
One suspects Dwight D. Eisenhower would have approved.
The GUI and ILGU will be the official hosts of the championship and with Ireland coming third in both tournaments in 2016, the hope is that home field advantage will see the men’s and women’s teams doing even better in 2018.

Espirito Santo Trophy (Women): 29th August to 1st September 2018.
Eisenhower Trophy (Men): 5th September to 8th September 2018.

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