Dundalk hosts Low Fuel Card Irish PGA Championship

DEFENDING CHAMPION: Niall Kearney

TOP class golf comes to Dundalk this week when the Low Fuel Card Irish PGA Championship is staged at Dundalk Golf Club.

It’s only the third time, and the first occasion since 1969, that the Irish Professional Golf Championship has been held in Dundalk and course has been set up to challenge the top club professionals over the tournament’s four rounds which will be played from Thursday to Sunday.

The names of some of the biggest names in Irish golf such as Christy O’Connor Senior, Harry Bradshaw, Des Smyth, Eamonn Darcy, Paul McGinley, Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington have had their names etched on the famous trophy over the past 107 years and there will be no shortage of players wanting to join that illustrious list.

The defending champion is Niall Kearney who is looking to become the first player since Padraig Harrington to record back to back victories in the event having just returned from America where he holed the winning putt for Great Britain & Ireland in their historic PGA Cup win over USA on American soil.

“I like Dundalk Golf Club,” said Kearney. “I have played it quite a few times over the years but I have to admit, it has been a while – could even be back when I was playing boys interpros. It’s an ideal venue for me because I can stay at home, sleep in my own bed, all that sort of thing.”

“Winning the title last year provided me with a real springboard,” added Niall. “I got into the PGA Play-offs in Turkey and won that which gave me another confidence boost.

“That led to other opportunities like playing in the PGA Cup and the BMW PGA Championship but I wasn’t thinking of any of those at the time. I just wanted to win the championship because of the names that were on the trophy, the history and kudos associated with the event.

“This year is no different. I don’t feature on the Order of Merit, I haven’t been active enough this year but I still want to defend the Championship.”

The battle for the Irish Order of Merit has turned into a two horse race between Waterville’s David Higgins and Clontarf’s Eamon Brady and with plenty of points on offer at Dundalk this week they are not surprisingly among the favourites to relieve Kearney of his crown along with Simon Thornton who was the 2011 champion and is a European Tour regular.

Ladies European Tour regular, Rebecca Codd, will make her debut in the Irish PGA Championhip having come through qualifying on September 21. She will be joined in the field by Victoria Bradshaw, Marian O’Riordan (Ballykisteen) and Hazel Kavanagh (Carr Golf Services).

Kearney gets his campaign up and running fron the first tee at 12.50pm alongside Higgins and the vastly experienced Damien Mooney (Ballyliffin). In-form Jimmy Bolger (Kilkenny) a two-time winner in recent weeks, will tee off alongside Thornton and Brady at 12.40pm.

There will be plenty of support for local professionals Leslie Walker (Dundalk), Robert Giles (Greenore), Brian Kerley (Green Life) and Ian Brennan (Greenore) who all know the Dundalk track well. Walker had some great duels in this event a few years ago with Harrington and could reel back the years on his home track.

Dundalk Golf Club has been busily preparing for this event since it was announced and the greenkeeping staff have the course in superb condition and it is set to provide a stern test for the 105 players who tee off on Thursday.

Spectators are welcome to attend – entry is free.