Declan Sheedy looks ahead to Sunday's Senoior grade in this piece below:
DEFENDING Champion Geraldine Ward of Portmarnock aims to complete the three-in-a-row having won this title in Collins last year and in Cement in 2017 and will be out to claim her 11th Strokeplay title. Geraldine won this title when last played in St. Bridget’s in 2004 and boasting her remarkable record in this event will again likely enter as favourite this weekend. If she is to complete the three-in-a-row she will have to be at the top of her game as she will face stiff competition from what is a very competitive field.
Leading this challenge is expected to be three-time winner Chrissie Byrne of Ryston who will be aiming to end a six year wait for her next strokeplay title, last winning in Navan in 2013. Chrissie has been Runner-Up in the last two years by the narrowest of margins so will be hoping to go one better this year. Chrissie comes in off the back of an excellent season so far and one can expect a major challenge from Chrissie on Sunday. Five time winner whose first win was 1977, Tullamore’s Margaret Hogan continues to play at the very highest level in the lady’s game and is one of the most consistent players in championship history. St. Bridget’s is course that is expected to suit Margaret’s game so would be no surprise to see Margaret feature in the latter groups of the playoff.
Ryston’s Tara Dillon awaits her first senior strokeplay title having been runner up on 3 occasions. Tara is ever present at the top end of championship leader boards and expect the same this Sunday. Tara will know the course as well as anyone which could prove the key to her claiming her first title. Double 2019 Munster Champion Martha O’Brien from Lakeside seeks her first national senior title and given her performance year to date she will rightly enter with big hopes and will be full of confidence after her recent playoff victory in the Munster strokeplay in Listowel. Another lady hitting top form at the perfect time is Glenda Hoey of RGSC. In the last month Glenda has claimed the Dublin senior strokeplay title and followed this with an excellent performance in Kilbeggan where she won the Leinster senior strokeplay title. Can Glenda add a national title to her county and provincial honours, her recent performances suggest it is quite possible.
2016 & 1987 champion Breda White from Tipperary Hills can again be expected to be a serious contender on Sunday. Strong performances this season so far and plenty of experience on championship days suggests Breda should not be overlooked to lift the cup for a third time this Sunday. Rocklodge’s Mary Murray win in the National Matchplay this year proved to all that she is now one of the top lady players in the country. Mary produced top class Pitch & Putt in the Matchplay Final under the highest levels of pressure so will not be over awed by the occasion as she seeks to add her name to a very short list of players who won both Senior Strokeplay and Matchplay in the same year making her a big contender.
Despite a quiet last few years playing in Singles Championships, to overlook the 1999 Champion Marion Courtney of Ryston would be a big mistake. One of the most naturally talented players in the game Marion knows exactly what it is needed to win gold and her familiarity with St. Bridgets will be an advantage. Can Marion win 20 years on since her last, very possible. Another previous winner, the 1995 champion Sheelagh Elmes from Portmarnock is entered and we can expect to see her put in a strong showing on Sunday. A very determined and consistent player Sheelagh can be expected to have a big say come Sunday evening.
Of the other contenders’ strong showings are expected from the every consistent Mairead O’Toole Poulaphouca and Mary Donnelly of Ryston, both who were prize-winners in the recent Leinster senior strokeplay champions along with St. Bridget representative Elizabeth Smyth. Dublin clubs are well represented by Maree O’Toole of Shandon who was Runner-Up in this year’s Leinster Senior Strokeplay so is currently in great form and another lady to watch out for this weekend. RGSC have Siobhan Keely, Ger Holland and Louise Grace all hoping to bring more titles back to the club following Glenda’s recent provincial success. Phil Condron of Lucan, Pauline Balfe of Old County and Helen Greagsbey of Irene are all very solid players and will be aiming to stake their claims this weekend.
Cork’s second contender in the finals is Fermoy’s Sarah McGrath who continues to establish herself as a very good player in this grade and will be hoping for at least a playoff place Sunday. Mary Quinn from the Lakeside club steps up to the Senior grade again following her double Munster wins in the Intermediate Strokeplay and Matchplay this year. Mary will be hoping to add the senior title to her intermediate and junior National Strokeplay she won in 2015 & 2018 respectively. Collinstown’s Liz Quinn continues her return to championship final and showed a strong return to form at the recent Leinster Strokeplay so can’t be ruled out. Meath clubs are represented by Cathy Richardson of Bellowstown and Kathleen Geraghty Skryne where both ladies will be hoping for a strong outing.
With one of the most competitive fields gathered in the senior grade in recent years this promises to deliver a very exciting Championship. We have seen a number of first-time winners this year in the Ladies’ Senior grade at both National and Provincial championships which is great to see, and it would not come as a major surprise if we saw another first-time winner come through on Sunday. With nine players to make the playoff it will be all about keeping in touch after 36 holes where after that it will all be about who can handle the pressure of the Final 18 best. Expect the title to be decided only by a shot or two.
We wish all the Ladies participating on Sunday the very best of luck in these three prestigious Championships the very best of luck. There will be streaming out on the course during the playoffs on Sunday on the Ladies & U-16 Facebook page.
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