Royal County Down and Royal Portrush took the bulk of funding from the Northern Ireland government’s Sports Sustainability Fund, set up to help sporting bodies affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The courses received £4.2 million from a pot totalling £22.4 with 2007 Walker Cup venue Royal County Down receiving the most money at £1,526,452. 2019 Open Championship venue Royal Portrush got £757,638.
Only 36 of Northern Ireland’s 90 golf clubs applied for funding, with 25 of those applicants being successful. Monies handed out ranged from Newtonstewart’s £5,651 to County Down’s table- topping figure. The fund was available to clubs that could prove negative financial impact as a result of COVID-19.
Golf Ireland chief executive Mark Kennelly said:
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a severe financial impact on golf clubs which, despite being closed for long periods over the last 12 months, have significant costs to bear in maintaining facilities and the courses themselves.
“Golf Ireland is committed to supporting its affiliated clubs in every way we can, and we are delighted that this funding has been secured for clubs in Northern Ireland.
“A total of 25 clubs will receive funding from this scheme in addition to 145 clubs who benefitted from Sport Ireland Resilience Funding in the Republic of Ireland. Additionally, we hope that several more will benefit from Fáilte Ireland’s Business Continuity Fund in the near future.”
Royal Portrush is set to stage the Open Championship in 2025, according to a report in The Guardian.
“While insiders at the R&A and the club insist no formal agreement is yet in place for 2025, Portrush is understood to be at the front of the queue as background talks proceed positively,” the newspaper reported.
An R&A spokesman told the newspaper: “We would not comment on speculation regarding future venues for the Open. We are in regular contact with the venues that host the championship, and those discussions are between us and the venues.”
Open Championship venues are currently set through 2024, with Royal St George’s to stage this year’s championship followed by the Old Course St Andrews, Royal Liverpool and Royal Troon.
The 2019 Open, the second to take place on the Antrim course, was widely seen as an unqualified success. The R&A could announce the 2025 venue as early as next month.
The game lost one of its most popular figures last week with the death of Bob Lewis Jnr at age 76.
Lewis briefly played professional golf in the mid-1970s but it was after being reinstated as an amateur that he was to build a deserved reputation for his skill, doggedness, graciousness and sportsmanship.
Lewis played on four winning US Walker Cup teams (in 1981, ’83, ’85 and ’87) during which he built an impressive 10-4 individual record and then as captain reversed a single-point defeat at Ganton in 2003 by leading his team to victory by the same margin at Chicago Golf Club two years later.
The Ohio native’s name is intrinsically linked with this biennial transatlantic amateur contest, but during a sparkling career he also finished runner-up in three USGA championships, was low amateur at the 1987 Masters and in 1978 became the first amateur to win the Ohio Open since Jack Nicklaus 21 years before.
“He was a great guy and a really gritty competitor,” said Nigel Edwards, a four-time GB&I Walker Cup player. “He wanted to win but not at all costs. He always behaved in the proper manner and that is something everybody respected him for.
“It was very sad to hear he’d passed away. I spoke to Jim Holtgrieve, my opposite number as captain at Royal Aberdeen in 2011, the other night, and we spent a fair bit of time reminiscing about him. I remember that at Ganton, Bob gave a speech in which he quoted David Forgan who once said, ‘Golf is a science, the study of a lifetime, in which you may exhaust yourself but never your subject.’
“That struck a chord with me at the time. Bob was in his 30s when he made his first Walker Cup team and I was the same. It reminded me you can be a success later in life if you learn to use your experience to your advantage. That’s something we can all learn from.
“I’m sure we’ll all be thinking about him when we arrive at Seminole for next month’s Walker Cup.”
Unlocked from GGP+: Peers See Lewis As Ideal Jones Award Winner
American Pierceson Coody is now the second-best player on the World Amateur Golf Ranking thanks to winning the George Hannon Collegiate. The University of Texas junior made a nine-place move on the latest ranking update. Only Walker Cup teammate Davis Thompson stands between Coody and the top of the world order.
Countryman Garret Reband, a senior at the University of Oklahoma, moved to sixth in the latest ranking thanks to his victory in the Men’s NIT.
Alex Fitzpatrick moves inside the world top 15 for the first time following his victory in the Valspar Collegiate, his maiden college win as a Wake Forest player. The Englishman, younger brother of six-time European Tour winner Matthew Fitzpatrick, jumps 10 places to 14th to become the second highest-ranked Great Britain & Ireland player behind eighth-ranked Sandy Scott of Scotland. Both were expected to return to Walker Cup when the team is named this month. They played in the 2019 match at Royal Liverpool.
Sweden’s Ingrid Lindblad rises to No 4 on the women’s ranking, a one-place move, with her victory in the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic for Louisiana State University.
Gregorio De Leo consolidated Italy’s fine start to the European amateur season when he completed a wire-to-wire victory at his home national championship at Acaya.
The 20-year-old from Biella carded rounds of 66, 66, 69 and 73 to finish seven shots ahead of compatriot Marco Florioli on 10-under-par 274 and become the first home winner since Andrea Romano in 2018.
The victory comes hard on the heels of Italian international team-mate Nicolas Fallotico’s win in the recent Spanish International Amateur at El Prat. Fallotico finished in a share of 51st place at Acaya.
The Italian women’s championship at Parco de Medici was won by France’s Charlotte Liautier who recovered from an opening 76 to fire rounds of 69, 69 and 71 and claim a two-shot victory ahead of home hopes Carolina Melgrati and Francesca Fiorellini.
Liautier followed in the footsteps of compatriot and former world No 1 Pauline Roussin-Bouchard, who lifted the trophy in 2019. Last year’s event was cancelled because of COVID-19.
R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers expects fans to attend this year’s AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie, on 19-22 August. In an open letter, the R&A boss wrote:
“We are greatly encouraged that we will be able to welcome fans at the AIG Women’s Open, and I would like to assure you that we are working with the Scottish and UK governments, our health and safety advisers, agencies and our partners at AIG to progress our plans to ensure that everyone can enjoy the action at Carnoustie safely.
“Nothing is certain with the COVID-19 pandemic but, as the vaccine rollout continues at pace and the governments provide a clear framework for moving back toward normality, we believe that the AIG Women’s Open will provide fans with something wonderful to anticipate this summer.”
The Austrian Open has returned to the European Tour. The €1 million tournament will take place on 15-18 April at Diamond Country Club in Atzenbrugg.
The tournament moves into the slot vacated by the Tenerife Open at Golf Costa Adeje, which now will take place from 29 April to 2 May following the postponement of the Portugal Masters at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course due to ongoing travel difficulties.
Its return signals the 22nd time the Austrian Open has been played as a European Tour event, with Diamond Country Club hosting the tournament for the 11th consecutive year.
Scotland’s Marc Warren will defend the title he won last year when he finished one shot ahead of Germany’s Marcel Schneider.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have had to be agile with our scheduling and today’s announcement is another example of that,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said.
“We are naturally grateful to Diamond Country Club and the Austrian Golf Federation for once again helping us to continue to provide a full schedule and playing opportunities for our members.
“Diamond Country Club is obviously a venue that we know very well, and we look forward to returning there next month.”
Trust Golf, part of the TCT Corporation, is the new title sponsor the Women’s Scottish Open on the Ladies European Tour and LPGA Tour. This year’s tournament, the Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open, takes place at Dumbarnie Links, Fife, on 12-15 August.
Stacy Lewis will defend the title she won at the Renaissance Club last year, when the event was known as the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open. The tournament was worth £1.5 million in 2020, but no prize fund has been announced for this year’s event.
The Scottish government, through Visit Scotland, has made its own five-year commitment to the tournament. Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish government’s cabinet secretary for economy, fair work and culture, said:
“Our long-term commitment to the Women’s Scottish Open underlines the important role women’s sport plays at the heart of a fair and equal society, and I’m pleased that we are able to continue our support for a tournament that has grown into one of the most important on the women’s golf calendar. It is vital that we continue the momentum from hosting the 2019 Solheim Cup and maintain Scotland’s position at the forefront of the sport.”
Cameron Smith crowned a successful 2020 season by winning the Greg Norman Medal awarded to Australia’s most successful golfer of the year.
The 27-year-old Smith pipped Presidents Cup team-mate Adam Scott and star woman performer Minjee Lee to the title after winning his maiden victory on the PGA Tour at the Sony Open and finishing second behind Dustin Johnson at the Masters in November.
“That’s awesome,” he said after receiving the call. “I’m speechless.”
Norman paid a warm tribute to his young compatriot. “I’ve been a huge fan of yours,” the Shark said. “I just love your tenacity on the golf course.
“You know the game of golf is more than just power. Your consistency has been unbelievable and your performance at the Masters was a big shining light for everybody.”
Colin Callander and Alistair Tait