AMATEUR GOLF

Mother and daughter go head-to-head at AIG Irish Women’s Amateur Close Championship

By Ronan MacNamara

Sibling rivalries in golf are a common thing, we have the Jutanugarn’s and the Korda’s battling it out at the upper echelons of the LPGA Tour while the Byran bros have dazzled us with their trickshots and the Finau brothers were very competitive on the amateur circuit.

Rarely do we see a parent and child competing against each other in a tournament but that is what we will see at the AIG Irish Women’s Amateur Close Championship this week. Rachel Thompson is joined in the field by her mother Ailish in Ballybunion.

“The course is in good condition, every hole is different it will be challenging but fun, we are looking forward to it,” Rachel said.

Both ladies who are members of Cork Golf Club, enjoy the experience of competing against each other and getting to travel together, something that has been happening before Rachel started playing.

“Before I would have been caddying for mum when I was younger, she won the plate at the Close in Fota when I was seven and I caddied for her because I got the day off school,” she said.

Having competed in the same tournaments in their careers the mother-daughter bond has extended to the golf course with both ladies practicing regularly together. The Thompson’s are a competitive sporting family and that is reflected in their intense practice sessions.

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Ailish Thompson, Cork Golf Club

“We play a lot together, skins kept us going over lockdown, my older brother who doesn’t play a lot got involved so we had very competitive games of skins going,” Rachel said.

Rachel, on a golf scholarship in the University of Tennessee, felt the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic – returning home at Christmas – before coming home for the summer season a few weeks ago.

“I went over in September, it was a good golf programme and I enjoyed my time there.

“I am enjoying my time at home and getting to play with my family and playing my home courses in Cork so I definitely missed home for sure,” she added.

Ailish first played golf at the age of 16, and has enjoyed a stellar amateur career since, representing Ireland and Munster in various tournaments before parental duties forced her to take a break from the game with her handicap at 2 – her lowest.

“My mother was taking my brother out golfing and of course I was jealous.

“I played all the girls’ tournaments, I played in a lot of U-21 as well, I played Ulster games for Ireland in Portrush which was fantastic and I played on Munster teams as well then I got married and had children so that’s what stopped me getting much further,” she added.

Golf runs through generations of the Thompson family with Rachel’s grandmother (Ailish’s mother) playing in Limerick and Lahinch while Ailish’s sister also captained Rachel’s victorious inter-pro team last year which made it extra special for the family.

Three years ago in the Senior Cup, a unique situation presented itself before the Thompson’s when Rachel played against her aunty.

“My mother had to hide in the bushes!” Ailish joked.

Rachel is an Ireland international, something which was a proud day for her family.

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Rachel Thompson, Cork Golf Club

“It was fantastic, I played European and Home Internationals twice, earning four junior caps.

She then got the opportunity to represent Ireland at senior level after she romped home to victory at the Connacht Women’s Championship by eleven shots.

“I was lucky enough to be selected, I played four matches it was fantastic, and I hope to keep playing and representing Ireland.”

For Ailish, while the clubs had been put away, she was always by her daughter’s side beaming with pride as she watched her develop and improve over the last few years. A poignant moment was when she was in Wales to see Rachel help Ireland to their first girls’ Home International win in 47 years – a competition they have not won since.

“It’s fantastic I have really enjoyed the last few years.

“I haven’t played much the last few years myself but driving Rachel to the girls’ competitions and they did so well in the girls Home Internationals to win and we were all proud parents absolutely delighted.

“In 2019 when she made the ladies team as well I was just so thrilled,” she added.

Rachel Thompson tees off at 9am on Thursday alongside Killarney’s Valerie Clancy and Knock’s Katie Poots while her mother Ailish, will tee it up with Amy Arthur of Killarney and Ballina’s Annabel Greham half an hour later.

More about AIG...

AIG's new partnership with Golf Ireland sees it become official sponsor of the AIG Irish Women’s Amateur Close Championship, which takes place in Ballybunion, County Kerry, between June 17th and 20th.

This partnership shows AIG’s longstanding commitment to promoting and supporting both women’s sport and Irish golf. AIG already proudly sponsor a number of prominent Golf Ireland tournaments and competitions, including the AIG Men’s Irish Amateur Close Championship. AIG are also the long standing sponsor of the biggest amateur golf competition in Ireland, the AIG Men’s and Women’s Cups and Shields tournaments that involves every club across Ireland.

The AIG Irish Women’s Amateur Close Championship will be contested by more than 70 of the country’s top women’s amateur players as the stunning Ballybunion Golf Club, which is consistently rated as one of the best courses in the country.

AIG has been a long-time champion for women’s sport both in Ireland and globally, helping to prove that the effort, commitment and dedication of leading sportswomen is equal to that of their male counterparts.

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