James Claridge his the 100th West of Ireland Champ (Thos Caffrey/Golffile)
battled his opponents and incredibly challenging weather to capture The 100th West of Ireland Championship at County Sligo Golf Club. The event has been both a match play and a 72-hole stroke play event in its illustrious history. Currently, the event culminates in match play and it is always played during the week of Easter.
In an interview with Golf Ireland, former County Sligo Golf Club President and Captain Tony Cunningham summed up the energy that arrives every year.
“There is a buzz that comes in around Easter time," he said. "Even though I spent an awful amount of time away from home I always tried to get home for Easter as often as I could."
That "buzz" is because the best of the best arrive on the northwest coast to play the course the locals call Rosses Point. Padraig Harrington (1994), Rory McIlory (2005 and 2006), and Shane Lowry (2008) have all won this event. Hugh Foley, the U.S. Mid-Am runner-up was the 2021 champion.
An inspiring story was bubbling up this year, as Sligo member Barry Anderson
was chasing his second championship after winning it in 2017. It was the first time since 1950 that a Sligo member won the tournament. Cecil Ewing was the champion in 1949 and 1950.
Claridge, an outstanding English golfer, who won the Berkhamsted just last week, dashed the dreams of the Sligo faithful with a dominant 6&5 victory in the final over Anderson. Claridge rushed out to a 4-up lead after just seven holes in the wind and rain at Rosses Point. He never lost a hole in the final.
It's hard to argue with Clardige's performance over the entire tournament. He won the Pat Ruddy Perpetual Trophy for medalist honors in the stroke play portion. He shot 74-69-73 for a two-shot cushion.
That trophy was a nice addition to the trophy case, but it wasn't the one he really wanted.
“It’s nice to win the strokeplay but in my eyes the job is not done,” Claridge told the Irish Times. “Still got the matchplay to go so fresh morning tomorrow, see where we get drawn and let’s see if we can get the double.
He was fresh alright.
In his four matches, Claridge only lost 11 holes. He defeated Joe Lyons
5&4 in the round of 16. In the quarterfinals, he dispatched of Patrick Keeling
5&3. The semi-final round was the moment of truth for Claridge, as Marc Boucher
, a former UNC-Charlotte standout took him to 20 holes in a back-and-forth match on Tuesday morning.
It hasn't been an easy road to this point for Claridge.
“I struggled last year. I remember I missed the cut at the East, I missed the cut at the Scottish, I missed the cut at the British, three in a row," Claridge said to Golf Ireland. "I rang my Dad and told him I didn’t want to play golf anymore."
Now, after two big wins in the span of a couple weeks, Claridge isn't thinking about putting his clubs away. Instead, he's thinking about a chance to represent GB&I in the Walker Cup at St. Andrews.
ABOUT THE West of Ireland Open Amateur
From 1923 through 2018, the West of Ireland was a
match play tournament but the format was switched
to 72 holes of stroke play in 2019 before reverting to
match play in 2022. Originally held in
July, it was moved to coincide with Easter but now it is
played in April to open the Irish
competitive calendar each year.
View Complete Tournament Information