CORK’S most exciting handicap competition of the year gets underway in Muskerry on Good Friday.
The Muskerry Junior Scratch Trophy will see the 64 qualifiers face off over three days, with the winner getting though six rounds of matchplay golf.
Two qualifying events took place last month with over 220 golfers participating, all hoping to make the top 64 to enter the matchplay phase.
Alan Carey (Muskerry), Damien Kiely (Youghal), and John Corbett (Muskerry) led the qualifiers with 62s, and they will be hoping that their good form will continue through to Sunday.
The competition is unique in Ireland and has been running since 1970, and the winners’ trophy dates back to the original staging over 40 years ago.
The 18/64 format has proved popular over a number of decades with golfers entering year after year.
There have been many famous winners and many dramatic finals. Eoghan O’Connell, Niall Turner, and Morgan O’Donovan were among the winners to turn pro while Sean Duggan from Castlemartyr and Mitchelstown’s Sean Leonard were among the youngest winners.
The holder is Fota Island’s Thomas Hughes, he put in a great performance last year to win through his six rounds.
In 2019 there was an all Fota battle when the final involved a father and son. David Howard managed the defeat his dad John in a tense family affair involving the two Fota Island members.
In over 40 years only three golfers have won it on more than once. Bantry’s Donal McCarthy won the trophy on three occasions in the 1980s and he was the only player to win back-to-back titles, in 1984 and 1985.
Although the trophy has plenty of Muskerry names, Ger O’Shea, Liam Harte, and John McSweeney are the only members of the home club to have their names there twice.
McSweeney and Harte are both in the matchplay draw this year and will be hoping to land the title for the third time.
The event is again sponsored by Ryan’s SuperValu who came on board for the first time in 2021.
Liam Ryan has supported many Cork clubs over the past few years, and Ryan’s are also title sponsors of the Munster Strokeplay in Cork Golf Club.
The Easter date usually marks the start of the season for Cork golfers and this year is no different with scratch cups and open singles filling the calendars in many clubs from mid-April onwards.
It also marks the opening of the national calendar with the West of Ireland taking place at Sligo Golf Club this weekend.
Peter O’Keeffe leads the Cork challenge in Rosses Point with Cathal Butler, Sean Desmond, Jordan Boles, Morgan Cain John Doyle, Darren Kelleher, and Mel Deasy also hoping for a good start to the championship season.
Play begins tomorrow with the first of three strokeplay rounds, with the top 16 going through to the matchplay stages in a change from the traditional 36/64 format.
The first local events of the season get underway with the Lee Valley Scratch Cup on April 22/23 with the Cork Scratch Cup taking place over the May Bank Holiday weekend.
Fermoy will host the John Whyte Memorial Scratch Cup in early May and East Cork and Muskerry also host scratch cups in May.
The first rounds of the inter-club events will also take place over the coming weeks. Clonakilty had wins in the Minor Cup and Challenge Cup in their preliminary round matches.
There are several other matches to be completed in these competitions and in the mixed foursomes before the first round proper commences in mid-April.
Brian McCarthy v Tim Smyth, Eugene O’Callaghan v John Corbett Jnr, Philip Quinn v David Mellamphy, Shane Lucey v Michael Quaid, Paul Harte v John Howard, Gerard Moore v Ross Higgins, Alan Carey v Shane Griffin, Conor Fitzpatrick v Cian Smith, Shane Lawlor v Declan Geary, Joe Portley v Phelim Cotter, JP Ryan v Stephen Deveraux, Ronan Curran v Darragh Murphy, Dylan Cotter v Mark Kelleher, Martin Daly v Liam Harte Jnr, Anthony Buckley v Michael McGrath, Jack Kelleher v Diarmaid Scanlan, James Hegarty v John Boyle, Denis Quinlan v Billy Egan, Aidan Kelleher v Padraic Kilmartin, Brian Kirby v Patrick Manley, Patrick Smith v Edward Hurley, John McSweeney v Donal M Buckley, David Forde v Ronan O’Connell, Seamus Spencer v Sean Coughlan, Johnny Barry v Allan Cuthbert, Anthony O’Connell v Vinny Clifford, Mark Dennehy v Odhran Heelan, Ben O’Dea v Peter Scannell, Ben O’Connell v Aidan Paul Lennon, David Taylor v Ronald Hartnett, Damien Delaney v Barry Hallihan, Tim Finn v Damien Kiely.