2019 National Ladies Strokeplay Championship Preview
By Declan Sheedy
The National Ladies Strokeplay Championship returns to the excellent St. Bridget’s course and venue in Kilcullen, Co. Kildare on Sunday 30th June for the first time since 2004. The event returns as a 54-hole championship for all grades this year after a trial run last year as a 36 holes championship and it is fantastic to see the entries increase by 30 players this weekend compared to 2018 with 82 competitors entered this year across all three grades. The addition of Nett prizes and Final 18 prizes in each grade are also very positive inclusions in this year’s championship and it promises to be an excellent championship ahead.
When last played in St. Bridget’s in 2004 the senior title went to Geraldine Ward of Portmarnock with a score of 17 under for 54 holes where she pipped Chrissie Byrne, then of St. Bridget’s, by a single shot. The intermediate was won by ESB’s Linda O’Donovan with 1 under for the 54 under while it was Cunnigar’s Donna Cockwell with a score of 4 over for 54 holes that claimed the Junior crown. 15 years on will see Geraldine and Chrissie back to compete again for the senior title along with many others who would have played here in 2004. The 2019 list of entrants feature the very best players in Ireland, with each grade filled with national, provincial and county champions all hoping to add this illustrious national title to their list of honours and many others hoping to be lifting their first national title come Sunday evening.
With the very positive introduction of Nett prizes and a Final 18 prize in each grade this offers additional opportunities for players to feature in the prize winners circle this year and offers everyone a real chance to have something to play for. Ahead of the championship we preview each of the grades and who we may expect to see as the top contenders for the overall Gross prizes and title of National Strokeplay Champion 2019.
With last year champion Phil Downey of Collins not taking part this year the only thing certain in this grade is that a new champion will be crowned on Sunday. It’s a very open championship grade where home or local advantage could well prove the key to success.
The host club of St. Bridget’s have four representatives in the form of Ann Sweeney, Dina Dillon, Catherine Dillon and Gabrielle Sweeney. Surprisingly despite the club having many champions in the past across the Senior and Inter Ladies grades, no St. Bridget’s player has won this national junior title, so the four ladies this year will be out change this statistic. Ann won the national seniors junior grade last year so will enter this championship as one of the favourites for this year’s junior title. Dina, Catherine and Gabrielle will know the course inside out which is a big advantage and we should see at least one or two for the St. Bridget ladies make the playoff.
Athgarvan duo Fiona Lambe and Sabrina Power will have played St. Bridget many times so they too will know the right shots to play and both will be hoping to take the cup 2 miles over the road to the Athgarvan club come Sunday evening. The 2019 Leinster and Munster junior strokeplay champions Adeline Revins of Kilbeggan and Margaret O’Donovan of Bruff take to the tee in a bid to claim the provincial and national strokeplay double. Both ladies put in excellent performances in their respective championships two weeks ago so will come to Kilcullen confident of completing the double. Expect both players to feature strongly on Sunday.
In addition to the 2019 Leinster and Munster Junior strokeplay champions, we also see the 2019 Provincial Matchplay Champions in the field. Barbara Murphy of Seapoint and Josie McCormack of Lakeside will be considered amongst the players to watch out for. Both know how to win and have big chances Sunday. Barbara will be joined by clubmates Wendy Mary Mooney and Jan Mooney in their challenge for national gold. Glenville bring a strong contingent of seven players, all hoping they can stake their claim for the title and bring it back to the Tallaght club. They are Catherine Fox, Christine Mulvey, Catherine Keane, Breda Boyle, Gemma Coyle, Dolores Mullen and Nora O’Meara.
Gowran have four ladies make the trip north to Kildare as they set out to claim a first national ladies strokeplay title for a Kilkenny club. Their challenge will be led by 2018 Leinster Junior Strokeplay champion Ina O’Donnell along with her club-mates Marie Power, Stasia Healy and Patsy Kirk. Other players from around the country who will hope it is their name that is inscribed on the cup at the end of play Sunday are the beaten finalists the 2019 Munster and Leinster Junior Matchplays Veronica Anglim from Hillview and Sandra O’Connor of Navan, Ferbanes Mary Sheerin, Bellewstown’s Marie Brennan, Laytown’s Esther Andrews and Fermoy’s Mary Ann Byrne.
In a grade where home or local advantage has played a key a role in the past, some may expect that the cup will may travel too far from Kilcullen on Sunday night. However, with this year’s field of players full of county and provincial champions all will have their eyes set on adding a national title to their name. The addition of a playoff in the junior grade adds extra exciting to the event in this grade and we can look forward to a close-run championship.
Defending champion Mairead Manning of the St. Stephens club will set out to become the first lady to defend the National Intermediate Strokeplay title since ESB’s Linda O’Donovan in 2003 & 2004. Mairead may start as slight favourite this weekend off the back off a solid season so far and over the 54-hole format.
Mairead’s county team-mate, Fermoy’s Sarah O’Neill comes into the Championship after excellent performances in all the Championships this year so far. Winner of the National Nett Matchplay and Runner-Up in both the Munster Intermediate Matchplay and Strokeplay, Sarah is the form player this year in this grade and must to be considered one of the favourites to add more success to an already great year. Home player Catherine Smith of St. Bridget’s will have home support behind her and she has all the skills needed to stake her claim for the title. Catherine can be expected to put in a serious challenge where local knowledge could prove the key.
The other Kildare challenger from Ryston is Rose Kelly who a former Senior Champion from 1999 and remains a very consistent and solid player in the Ladies’ game. Rose will be very familiar with St Bridget’s and will know what are required to take on the Kilcullen venue and cross the winning line. Rose is certainly a player who could surprise many this weekend. Cork clubs will be represented by a number of other Ladies who will be expected to feature strongly. Paula Nolan of Rocklodge, Ailish Sexton of Fermoy and Patsy O’Donovan of Collins are all experienced Inter-County and Championship players.
Ailish who won the junior title in 2012 has put in several strong performances in county and provincial strokeplay championship over the past month so will hope to bring her good form into this weekend. Paula and Patsy are ever consistent performers on championship days with Patsy being narrowly beaten in the final of the national nett matchplay finals a month ago. Both ladies will be hoping for a place in the playoff at a minimum. Lakeside bring to the championship several players who will be fancied to put in a strong showing and it could be expected that at least some medal returns to the Templemore club Sunday evening.
2012 champion Bridget Shelley will lead this challenge. Another lady very consistent at championship finals, Bridget recently put up a good defence of her Munster strokeplay title in Listowel only to fall a couple of shots short for retaining it. Expect Bridget to have a big say in seeking to regain the title she last won in 2012. Frances Ryan and Elaine Quinn are another two strong contenders from the Lakeside club. Frances is a seasoned Inter-County player and has been successful at Provincial level so will be hoping to bring her experience to the forefront on Sunday. Elaine steps up a grade this as she was Runner-Up in the Junior Championship last year in Collins so is another lady who knows how to compete at the highest level in the Strokeplay Championship. We should see at least two Tipperary representatives in the playoffs.
Seapoint’s Joanne Cooney returns to Championship action since her Leinster Matchplay win in Trim back in May. Having played very well in the Matchplay Joanne aims to add national success to her provincial win and with the nature of the St. Bridget’s course it should suit Joanne play given it’s a similar length course to Seapoint. Of the other contenders none can be ruled out and expect a number of strong scores to be returned throughout the field. Dublin clubs have four representatives in this grade, Christine Morgan of Dunshaughlin, Susan Ritchie of RGSC, Mary Fullam of Shandon and Old County’s Laura Whelan. All four ladies will be hoping to bring the cup back across the Kildare border Sunday evening.
Munster clubs are further represented by Margaret Forde of Riverdale, Michelle Flynn of Fermoy and Lily O’Brien of Lakeside while Leinster players Margaret Conneely of Trim, Mary McKenna of Ferbane, Christine McCarthy of Tullamore, Marie Black of Bellowstown, Teresa Fagan of Royal Meath and Ann Bird of Laytown will all be familiar with St. Bridget’s from the provincial circuit and can be expected to perform well. Last but by no means least the flags of the Seapoint and McBride clubs will be flown by Ann Fagan and Mario Everitt from Seapoint and Audrey Donnelly of McBride all of whom will be hoping they return up the M50 will silverware in the car.
On paper it may suggest that the destiny of this year Intermediate Championship could be Munster bound but as always when it comes to championship day nothing can be taken for granted. Past or recent performances mean nothing if they are not replicated on the day but expect a very competitive grade Championship which could well be decided by a single putt on the final green.
Tomorrow: We will conclude our build-up by taking a look at the Senior Grade.
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