Playing at Royal Portrush on the eve of The 148th Open would be a dream for any golf fan and that’s exactly what 42 club golfers experienced in the Final of The R&A 9 Hole Challenge.
The Final was contested over the first two and last seven holes of the famous Dunluce links on Saturday, just 24 hours before The Open begins at the venue.
Siobhan McHugh and Robert Kennedy of Royal Portrush Golf Club proved that a little local knowledge can go a long way after the pair won the Stableford competition with a net aggregate score of 35 points to be crowned 2019 champions.
Meanwhile, Kathy Loughridge and Conor Cahalane of Malone Golf Club in Belfast finished runners-up.
And 2011 Champion Golfer of the Year Darren Clarke, together with Chris Hilton, Captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, presented the prizes to the leading teams.
“It was a real privilege to play and to finish as winners is just fantastic,” said Kennedy. “It is an honour to be a member here and this was just a bit special. To have Darren Clarke present the prizes as well was fantastic.”
McHugh added: “It was absolutely thrilling to be able to play Royal Portrush just before The Open gets underway.
“ I was really nervous on the 1st tee but once we teed off it was brilliant. It was an absolutely wonderful day.” siobhan mchugh, winner
The R&A 9 Hole Challenge is central to the organisation’s wider drive to promote this form of golf as an ideal way to enjoy playing the sport in less time, either recreationally or competitively for handicap purposes.
Almost 40,000 golfers entered nine-hole qualifying events held at courses throughout Great Britain and Ireland in 2019, as well as in Australia for the first time.
Golf Australia ran a Play 9 championship across the country with the final taking place during the Emirates Australian Open, which is part of The Open Qualifying Series, at The Lakes in Sydney in November last year.
Duncan Weir, Executive Director – Golf Development and Amateur Championships at The R&A said: “The finalists have enjoyed a great experience today and they all relished the opportunity to play one of the world’s finest links courses on the eve of The Open.
“We are already looking forward to next year’s event at Royal St George’s.