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Webb is facing a tough field in her Irish Close title defence

Tony McGee

FORMER Cairndhu star Laura Webb, now playing out of East Berkshire, defends the Women’s Irish Close Senior title at Castletroy this week, but she will face stiff opposition in her bid to hold onto the title. 

One of those with her eyes on the prize is Sheena McElroy, a three-time champion and current international. The Grange member secured a top-15 finish in the European Senior Women’s Individual Championship in Hungary recently and sits comfortably on top of the Irish Order of Merit. McElroy has been one of Ireland’s most consistent senior players over the past few years and is always a contender, while there is a long list of others with fine records in big events. 

Former Royal Portrush captain and ex-Strabane player Helen Jones has a long background of winning big competitions and, when it comes to championships, her name is always high on the list of possible winners, while the same is true of Carol Wickham from Laytown and Bettystown, who was runner-up last year at Athenry and also in 2013 at Woodenbridge. Add in Gertie McMullan (The Island) and Pat Doran (Donabate) and the strength of the field is clear to see.

Finnuala O’Grady (Dunmurry), Marilyn Henderson (Royal Belfast) and Violet McBride (Belvoir Park) may be outsiders, but they have turned in some good results in the past and can push some of the more fancied candidates for a high finish.

The field will play 18 holes over the parkland Castletroy course on Tuesday and Wednesday, after which the leading 16 will advance to the matchplay stages. The next 16 will enter the Plate Competition.

 

SHANDON PARK’S tremendous record in the Men’s Irish Senior Cup looks like entering a new era as the team is back in the Ulster semi-finals after double success at the Hilton, Templepatrick when Shandon brushed aside the challenges from both Whitehead and Ballyclare.

Shandon topped the four strokeplay qualifiers at the Hilton in May and, in the weekend first round of matchplay, edged past Whitehead by 3-2. In the afternoon, the Belfast side then posted the same result from the quarter-finals against Ballyclare. Also at the Hilton, Ballyclare had a rather unexpected 3.5 to 1.5 victory over Dunmurry.

At Castlerock, the home side eased through to the last four with a 3-2 win over Foyle, followed by a similar result against Moyola Park, who also won the odd game in five over North West. Through to the semi-finals, too, is Knock, who knocked out Mourne 4-1 and followed up with the same expulsion of highly-rated Clandeboye.

Slieve Russell were reckoned to be one of the strongest matchplay qualifiers and, at home, in the first knockout round they lived up to that billing with a 3.5 to 1.5 defeat of Edenmore but they faltered at the quarter-final hurdle. 

Lurgan moved swiftly through the action at Ballyconnell, losing only two matches in the 10 they played, for the equal best record of the day. It was neighbouring side Tandragee that first fell to the young Lurgan team by 4-1 and then home said Slieve Russell suffered the same fate.

The Ulster section semi-finals and final will be played at Portstewart on Sunday, August 16.

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