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PHOTO: James Sugrue, Amateur Champion, will take his place in the field for the domestic season opener. Image by Cashman Photography.
The island's best male amateur golfers make their much-anticipated return to competition when the men's championship season belatedly tees off with the Mullingar Scratch Trophy on August 15 and 16 – the first of four events to comprise this season's Bridgestone Order of Merit.
DRAW, TEE TIMES AND LEADERBOARD
Supported by Sherry Fitzgerald Davitt & Davitt and Pinergy, and run in partnership with GUI Leinster Golf, the 58th staging of the prestigious event has attracted a wealth of talent from across the island eager to make up for lost time amid Covid-19.
Last year, Kinsale's John Murphy captured the famed trophy in a performance that inspired an incredible run of form that ultimately saw him honoured with the Byron Nelson Award at Louisville.
Although the 22-year old won't be back this week to defend his crown, there's no shortage of contenders amongst Ireland's amateur elite looking to etch their name on the historic cup.
Reigning Amateur Champion James Sugrue tops that list of hopefuls. The Mallow man and current world number 14 will look to overcome the disappointment of missing out on his chance to defend the title he won last year at Portmarnock by capturing another prestigious championship on home soil.
His Walker Cup teammate and current world number 18 ranked Caolan Rafferty will also be hungry to add to his growing list of Irish titles. No stranger to winning his home Scratch Cup having triumphed three of the past four years, the Dundalk star would dearly love to add a Mullingar Scratch Trophy to his bulging cabinet.
Reigning Bridgestone Order of Merit champ Rob Brazill is set to miss out on the first event of the domestic season. The 23 year old from Naas will be unable to travel to the event due to the current public health travel restrictions. The Kildare man was pipped to the AIG Irish Close title by Ronan Mullarney last year and was targeting Mullingar to get his season off to a flyer.
Few winner's enclosures would prove sweeter than Mullingar. First played in 1963 when Joe Carr triumphed, the list of past winners is a who's who of Irish golf with the likes of Tom Craddock, Des Smyth, Philip Walton, Paul McGinley, Darren Clarke, Pádraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry all getting their names on the famous silver cup.
One thing this year's champion will have to go without, however, is the adoration of the crowds upon victory. The ongoing threat of Covid-19 means that for the first time in its history, the event will be played behind closed doors. Still, players can expect a typically warm Mullingar welcome from those fortunate enough to be able to attend the event.
"We're looking forward to welcoming all the players to the 58th consecutive staging of the Mullingar Scratch Trophy and very grateful to Sherry Fitzgerald Davitt & Davitt and Pinergy for coming on board as sponsors again this year," said John Plunkett, captain of Mullingar Golf Club.
Live scoring and news will be available throughout the championship at www.golfnet.ie