IN recent years the May weekend has marked the first major amateur golf championship in Munster with the staging of the Munster Strokeplay at Cork Golf Club.
The championship was introduced 2006 following an agreement with Munster Golf and Cork Golf Club. Munster Golf granted the new event provincial championship status and Cork agreed to host the event and incorporated their famous scratch cup into the new event.
The Cork Scratch Cup is reputed to be one of the oldest scratch cup competitions in Ireland with many saying is it indeed the oldest competition that still runs today. Outside of a break for the second world war when all golf was suspended, the competition has been annual event on the Cork golf calendar.
The trophy was presented by William Dwyer.
The Dwyer family are synonymous with Cork Golf Club and retain strong links with the club right up to current times, and William was the same person who started the Cork based inter-society competition which bears the family name and still runs today.
William Dwyer and his family had a big role in the success of Cork Golf Club and was responsible for the rebuilding of the clubhouse in the 1940s. Dwyer presented the silver trophy to the club in 1923, and just one year later he won it in himself in 1924.
The original cup still exists, and each winner has the privilege of taking it home after winning it. The names on the trophy form the who’s who of Munster and Cork golf for close on 100 years. Naturally the trophy bears the names of the great Cork Golf Club stalwarts.
Crosbie, Simcox, Bruen and Higgins are all represented, with Jimmy Bruen claiming four consecutive titles from 1938-1941. There was a gap of four years during the war and Redmond Simcox won his fourth title in 1947 when the competition resumed.
Simcox was one of three golfers to win the title five times, GF Crosbie and Denis O’Sullivan being the other two. Jimmy Bruen won it four times, as did Tom Cleary and JD McCormack.
The competition was played as a 64-man matchplay event for many years, and when it was subsumed into the Munster Strokeplay in 2006 it became a 72-hole strokeplay competition. Conor Doran (Banbridge) won the initial staging, and Niall Gorey went on to win three of the next five titles. Barry Anderson (Royal Dublin) added to his 2014 title in 2017 and in doing so joined a small elite group of multiple winners in the past 40 years.
The event has faced a few challenges in recent times, mainly due to the growing numbers of elite amateurs who are playing events on the international calendar. Some elite Irish amateurs are now selecting to go to the prestigious Lytham Trophy in Liverpool which takes place at the same time.
The event is included in the GUI Bridgestone Order of Merit and is a WAGR counting event, and that helps to ensure that anyone who’s not in Lytham is in Cork for the weekend.
Kinsale’s Cathal Butler is the most recent local winner, claiming his win with a great final round back in 2016. Butler came from behind to clinch the famous title and since then he’s learned more of the history behind the cup.
"It's great and since I won it, I've learned more and more about the winners,” said Butler. “I think Kieran McCarthy from Kinsale was the first to tell me that it used to be called the Cork Scratch Cup and he was after winning the competition both as the Cork Scratch Cup and the Munster Strokeplay which is a fantastic achievement.
"It feels great, the course in Cork Golf Club is such a great track and I'm very proud of my victory.
"It's always nice winning in a home county.”
And when asked how it felt to have his name on the famous trophy, Butler was justifiably proud.
“It's some list of winners, Jimmy Bruen Jnr was on some run between 1937 and 1941. There are some class names on the trophy looking back on it now, Anthony Pierse, Brendan McDaid, Denis O'Sullivan, Tom Cleary, Pat Murphy, Kieran McCarthy, Gary Murphy, Karl Bornemann. I didn't realize the list of winners was such an elite list.”
Veteran campaigner Joe Lyons was the winner last year. A former Irish International golfer, the Galway man persevered through the 72-hole challenge, winning on the second playoff hole.
“I’ve had a bit of a love hate relationship with this this course” said Joe. “I’ve had nines and tens and all sorts of things down through the years when I had chances of winning this event.
"Even when I was leading the qualifiers in the Irish Close a few years back I had a 10 on the 16th."
But last year there were no card wrecking scores, and when the pressure was on during the closing holes, one bogey in his last nine holes proved crucial.
While the format has changed from matchplay to strokeplay, the depth of the quality of the field means you still have to beat the very best amateurs to get your name on the famous trophy.
Although the traditional May weekend date has been missed, the event is classed as postponed by Munster Golf. Hopes will be high that the event will be held in 2020 once competitive golf has resumed and the national and provincial calendars are updated.