West of Ireland
A Brief History of the Championship
The inaugural West of Ireland Amateur Open Championship was held in August 1923. The first winner, from a field of 42 competitors was Larry Vernon who was home from South Africa on holidays. J Lindsay Crabbe, affectionately known as Bonzo, a member of Foxrock G.C. was the second winner in 1924, the year he also won the South of Ireland.
In 1931, due to the County Sligo club hosting the Irish Ladies Championship, the West was moved to its now traditional Easter spot.
In earlier years, the championship was decided over 36 holes and was dominated by two of the greats of Irish Amateur golf – Joe Carr from Sutton and Co. Sligo’s own Cecil Ewing (left). Between them they contested in the final on 24 occasions, with Carr winning 12 titles to Ewing’s 10.
Joe Carr’s son Roddy, also won the event in 1970. John Burke from Lahinch had the distiction of winning on 6 occasions, while in more recent times Garth McGimpsey (Walker Cup player and Captain) won the event on 4 occasions.
A historic final took place in 1979 between David Long (Shandon Park) and Arthur Pierse (Tipperary) when Long who was four down with six to play levelled the match by the 18th and proceeded to win the Championship on the 26th hole.
The ‘West’ is now the first Major competition on the amateur golfing calendar and is the traditional start of the competitive season for leading amateur golfers.
Today, the event is decided following 36 holes of qualifying strokeplay, with the top 64 players going head to head over six rounds of matchplay with the champion emerging after five days of golf.
The field at Rosses Point is nowadays packed with young potential starlets who dream of making it big in the professional ranks, many of whom view these championships as a stopping-off point en route to stardom and riches.
All of Ireland’s international amateur golfers and practically all of our present day professionals have played in the West of Ireland Championship.
Three times Major Champion Padraig Harrington won his first senior title at the West of Ireland in 1994, while Rory McIlroy was the youngest ever winner of the West in 2005 at the tender age of 15, and made it a double by winning again in 2006.
In 2008 Shane Lowry claimed the coveted title. A year later he became only the third amateur to win a European Tour title when he captured the ‘3’ Irish Open at County Louth Golf Club in Baltray, turning pro shortly after.