The ISPS HANDA World Invitational prides itself on being an inclusive event, and there is evidence of that beyond just its dual-gender aspect.
Not only will there be leading world professionals at Galgorm Castle and Massereene for the tournament — which starts tomorrow — but the event also provides an opportunity for some of Ireland’s leading amateurs to test their game too.
The likes of local Galgorm men Joshua Hill and Michael Reid will tee it up, as will Ireland’s Mark Power, as they get a chance to prove they have what it takes against veteran pros.
But the two amateurs who perhaps stand out most are Castle’s Robert Moran and Lahinch’s Aideen Walsh — the two winners of this year’s Ulster Stroke Play Championship at Royal County Down, which effectively served as a qualifying event for the tri-sanctioned tournament.
It’s going to be the biggest event that the pair have played in their careers thus far, with the possibility of them being joined on the first tee by some of the world’s leading figures a thrilling prospect.
But, despite the pressure that will be on their shoulders, Moran admits he’s not feeling it at all as he prepares for a taste of the professional experience.
“I’m pretty laid-back with things like this. I’m usually pretty good at playing things down, so I hope that’s an advantage. I reckon when I get up there, it’ll be a lot cooler than I expected,” said Moran, who beat Rowan Lester in a play-off to qualify.
“A couple of friends and cousins will go. I’ve a very supportive family, and they’ll come up and make a holiday of it.
“Hopefully I hit my first tee shot well and I can work from there. If I play well, anything can happen really. You never know with golf.”
As for Walsh, she cruised to victory on the women’s side of the Ulster Stroke Play to secure her spot and she comes into the event in excellent form having claimed the Leinster Championship at Mullingar last weekend.
However, unlike Moran, the Co Clare woman — who is a school teacher — is trying to play down her hopes for the week ahead.
“It’s all a bit mad. When I entered the Ulster Stroke Play, I didn’t even know a chance to play this week was on offer for the winner. It didn’t even enter my mind, until after I won. It’s a brilliant opportunity,” said Walsh.
“I am an amateur, so there are very few expectations. I just want to enjoy the opportunity as much as I can, soak it in and really enjoy it. I’m happy with my game. I’m going to go up, enjoy it and do my best.”
Meanwhile, nine Ulster golfers will represent Ireland at the upcoming Home Internationals, which will be played at Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire from August 4-6.
After playing at the European Team Championships earlier this month, Beth Coulter (Kirkistown Castle) and Annabel Wilson (Lurgan) have been retained in the women’s team, while Galgorm Castle teen Hill and Darcy Hogg (Belvoir Park) will play for the boys’ team, which is captained by Knock’s Alasdair Gibson.
Rebekah Gardner (Clandeboye) and Katie Poots (Knock) are on the girls’ team, captained by Anita McCaw of Royal County Down, while Jim Carvill (Banbridge) and Philip Purdy (Shandon Park) have been called up to the senior men’s team, with Gail Linter (Belvoir Park) on the senior women’s panel.