Inter-Club events are again set to be a key centre-point of the Golf Ireland calendar and a recently issued guidance document spells out some of the key features of the 2023 events. One change in Munster will see the split of home and away matches be removed and instead one team will have the home advantage for all matches. In 2020 a home and away arrangement was put in place, this was brought about due to the shortened season due to covid, and the need to move away from the traditional weekend events due to course availability. This was continued last year with all matches including the area finals being split on a home and away basis. Club surveys carried out last November saw almost two thirds of respondents in Munster favouring all matches being played at one venue. Munster was the only region to vote this way and as a result one club will now host all of the matches.
The change to the World Handicapping System had an impact in the qualifying handicap indexes in use in 2021 and 2022 will see some further changes in the qualifying criteria. Unlike 2020, there is no requirement for a minimum number of qualifying scores, the only requirement is that golfers must have a WHS handicap index on the 1st of January 2022. Where minimum handicap indexes are required for events, the date range requires a golfer to be not lower than the competition limit from 1 July 2021 to 1 January 2022. Previously under Congu handicaps, this lower limit would have applied for all of the previous year. As for the handicap index limits, there are a few changes. The handicap index limit for the AIG Women’s Intermediate Cup moves from 15.0 to 13.0 while the Women’s Challenge Cup limit moves from 26.0 to 28.0. Matches in the Women’s Intermediate. Minor and Challenge Cups will no longer be played from scratch with shot being given within prescribed handicap limits.
In the Men’s inter-club events, the handicap indexes remain the same. A limit of 2.5 applies in the Junior Cup while the Jimmy Brien Shield has a lower limit of 3.5 and the Pierce Purcell has a lower limit of 10.5. The combined indexes remain the same at 14.0 and 25.0. In the events where shots are given, in all cases the players current handicap index is used to assess shots or the course handicap if applicable. The closing date for entries for inter-club events is tomorrow (Friday 11th) so any clubs that have not completed their entries for 2022 should ensure their entries are completed in time.
In addition to the 21 inter-club events there is also a full schedule of 30 individual events in the Munster region. The Munster Strokeplay returns to it’s usual date of the May weekend in Cork while Fermoy will host the Munster Boys in July. Charleville hosts the Munster Girls in July and Lee Valley will host the Women’s Munster Cup in August. Douglas has also been confirmed as the venue for the Irish Senior Mens Championship in May. Castlemartyr, Youghal and Bandon are all scheduled to host inter-club finals in July and August.
Last weekend there was a pretty unique line up at the AT&T ProAm in Pebble Beach, with one fourball featuring four Munster golfers. PGA Tour winner Seamus Power was partnered with Kinsale’s John Murphy in what was the first time that a Cork professional featured in a regular season PGA Tour event. The two amateur partners were also from Munster with Limerick’s Gerry McManus partnering Murphy while Macroom born Dermot Desmond teaming up with Power. There was three more Corkmen involved with the group as Simon Keelan caddied for Power and Shane O’Connell was on the bag for Murphy. Keelan is in his third year with Power and the two Munster men have hit it off since teaming up, Power not only secured a strong tour card for 2021 but also won his first PGA event in the Barbasol Championship in Kentucky in July. Keelan has several years of tour experience behind him, he worked with several LPGA and LET players and caddied at the 2019 Solheim Cup when Europe won.
There was one other Corkman caddying last weekend. Drinagh native Martin Connolly is a member of the Olympic Club in San Francisco and has caddied for Gerry McManus at the AT&T for a number of years. Seasoned tour caddy JP Fitzgerald was the final person in the group of 8, the multiple major winning caddy was working with Dermot Desmond over the four days.
It was a fabulous week for John Murphy who took full advantage of his invitation. He was delighted to be partnered with Seamus Power for the first three rounds, and Power’s performance in the first two round gave Murphy plenty of air time on television. That included a few impressive birdies including one on the iconic 18th hole in Pebble Beach. Murphy along with his caddy Shane spent a week practicing in Carmel, playing Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula in the build up to his season debut. After a positive start last week, Murphy now heads for South Africa for the start of the Challenge Tour season. He’ll have a run of five events in South Africa and had targeted a quick start in his aim to secure a top twenty finish and gain a European Tour card for the 2023 season. Murphy had a impressive run of events in the Challenge Tour after turning pro halfway through the season last year and he’ll be hoping for a similar run in the first half of 2022.