MAYNOUTH, Ireland (August 7, 2012) -- A collection of champions among an international field of the highest calibre ensures that the International European Amateur Championship which gets underway on Wednesday at Carton House Golf Club, Maynooth, Ireland will be ferociously competed for.
Among the 144 starters are a large number of players who know what it takes to win at the highest level in amateur golf, with none more acutely aware than Austria’s Manuel Trappel, who will defend his title at the Montgomerie Course.
Trappel triumphed last year in Sweden by virtue of a three-hole playoff after finishing tied with England’s Steven Brown after 72 holes. In doing so, he joined the likes of Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy on the illustrious list of champions, but he has a task on his hands to keep another name of that list this year.
Along with Trappel, the Austrian challenge includes Matthias Schwab, narrowly pipped at the post for the Amateur Championship at Royal Troon in June, when he lost out on the final green of the 36-hole final to Rathmore’s Alan Dunbar. Dunbar, a former Irish Amateur Open champion, also finished runner-up at the St Andrews Links Trophy and will spearhead the home contingent which includes 17 players in all, including Brabazon Trophy runner-up Kevin Phelan, Irish Close and East of Ireland champion Chris Selfridge, and West of Ireland champion Harry Diamond.
Also included are 2011 East of Ireland champion Richard O’Donovan, Reeve Whitson, Gary Hurley, Rory McNamara, Dermot McElroy, James Fox, Niall Gorey, Paul Dunne, Aaron Kearney and Jack Hume.
Among the Irish contingent are likely to be a significant representation from the team that will contest the Home International Matches in Glasgow Gailes the week after the European Amateur, where they will meet players from England, Scotland and Wales that will also be in action in Carton House.
Among the English challenge are a number of US collegiate players riding high in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, such as Ben Taylor and Garrick Porteous, alongside Spanish Amateur champion Jack Hiluta and recently-crowned Welsh Stroke Play champion Craig Hinton.
The Scottish contingent also have reason to believe they will mount a challenge, with British Amateur semi-finalists Paul Ferrier and Jack McDonald among their numbers.
Meanwhile, Welshman Rhys Pugh certainly knows how to win in Ireland, having captured the 2011 Irish Amateur Open in Royal Dublin in a year which saw him make a triumphant Walker Cup debut at Royal Aberdeen, winning three matches from three starts. On that occasion, he narrowly evaded a final round charge from Dutchman Daan Huizing, who has since charged up the World Amateur Golf Rankings thanks to a number of notable performances, including victories at the 2011 Turkish Amateur and the 2012 Lytham Trophy and St Andrews Links Trophy.
Huizing’s compatriot Robin Kind will also be one to watch in Carton House, having won the individual category at the European Nations Cup and finishing runner-up at the 2012 Irish Amateur Open. The French challenge is also likely to be particularly strong, including among its ranks the name of Paul Barjon, who recently added trophies from the Scottish Stroke Play and Italian Amateur Championships.
Germany’s representatives include one of the in-form players of the year, Marcel Schneider, who captured the Australian Amateur Championship earlier in the year, and Moritz Lampert, the 2012 Portuguese Amateur Champion. Belgian Thomas Pieters – a regular in the top-10 of the World Amateur Rankings and the current NCAA champion – is also one to watch.
But amongst the 144-strong field are a large number of players who are inches away from joining the rank of champion golfer – and Carton House could be the scene of their triumph.
Even amongst such a large field, it really is too close to call.