By Brian Keogh
James Newton winner of the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship . Photo by Golffile
Golf Ireland will soon begin searching for a new venue for this year’s Irish Amateur Open Championship after Galway Golf Club voted on Monday to turn down its chance to host the event from August 12-15.
Three years ago, the huge Salthill club, which had 1,292 members on its books at the start of last year, was awarded the blue riband 72-hole strokeplay event for 2020 and 2021.
Last season’s edition, which coincided with the club’s 125th anniversary, was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
But following some internal changes to the makeup of the club council following the influx of six new committee members this year, a vote on hosting the Irish Amateur Open this summer was defeated by a narrow margin as there was unwillingness to give up the course for a week in high season.
The news, which has yet to be officially confirmed to Golf Ireland by Galway Golf Club, is a blow to those members who felt that a club of its standing had a duty to game to host such elite events.
Jamie Fletcher (Warrenpoint) and Paul Coghlan (Castleknock) walking the 12th fairway during day five of the AIG 2017 Irish Amateur Close Championship at Galway Golf Club (26/08/2017). Picture by Pat Cashman
However, there is now division in the ranks at Galway, where the huge number of playing members and the restrictions imposed by Covid-19 has put timesheets under significant pressure since the coronavirus pandemic hit last March.
According to sources at the club who were speaking on condition of anonymity, the restructuring of the club council has also temporarily put paid to plans by the Development Committee to invest some €3 million in a significant course renovation project.
Plans had been sought from several architects, including European Golf Design and Ken Kearney. But with the membership divided on the question, there is little appetite right now for pushing through one of these redesigns, including a major irrigation project.
The awarding of the 2020 and 2021 Irish Amateur Opens to Galway in 2018 was met with some raised eyebrows given its vulnerability to the big-hitting modern player.
The lovely, par-70 course measures just 5,975 metres from the blue tees (6,534 yards), though just three players broke park in 36-hole strokeplay qualifying for the 2017 Irish Amateur Close, which was won by Warrenpoint’s Jamie Fletcher.
The Island Golf Club in Donabate is scheduled to host the Irish Amateur Open in 2022 following a major upgrade for the front nine by Mackenzie & Ebert.
However, it's understood that Golf Ireland has many other candidates willing to stage the Irish Amateur Open this summer.
England’s James Newton won the 2019 Flogas Irish Amateur Open at County Sligo.