By John Manley
Padraig Harrington readied himself for this weekend’s Ryder Cup matches in Brookline, Mass., by taking on some of the PGA Tour’s humbler entities in the B.C. Open at the En-Joie Golf Club in Endicott, N.Y. The Dubliner finished in a tie for 12th place with a nine-under-par 279 (72-69-67-71). That was six strokes behind Brad Faxon and Fred Funk, who were low men after 72 holes.
So what does this slumming, so to speak, with the Tour’s blue-collar element portend for Harrington this weekend? Can’t really say, but consider that none of his three U.S. Ryder Cup rivals at the B.C. finished higher. Phil Mickelson was among those tied with Harrington, but neither Steve Pate nor Tom Lehman made the cut.
Ireland’s other contribution to the European team, Darren Clarke, took the week off from competitive golf.
Who’s that knocking on the door? Why it’s none other than Keith Nolan, who had his best performance of the year, an eighth place finish in the Boise Open at the Hillcrest Country Club in Boise, Idaho. The second-year pro from Bray, Co. Wicklow, strung together four sub-par rounds of 67, 70, 67 and 69 to finish 11 under at 273. Carl Paulson took first prize with his 266. Nolan earned $8,938.
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European Seniors Tour
Liam Higgins didn’t win the Ordina Legends in Golf, but he maintained his form over the event’s 54 holes and worked out a tie for fourth place. The Kerryman can boom the ball down the fairway, but, in time, enough of them veer off course to derail his chances of success. Here, at Prise d’Eau in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, Higgins crafted three sub-par rounds of 70, 70 and 69 to end up seven under at 209. Mike Slater was the medalist at 203.
Others of the Irish persuasion to show well included Arnold O’Connor, who settled for a sixth-place tie after having shared a slice of the first-round lead. O’Connor came in with a 66 on Friday, then ballooned to 74 on Saturday. He settled down with a 70 on Sunday to finish at 210. Among the sextet tied for 13th place at 211 were Paul Leonard (71-67-73) and Denis O’Sullivan (71-71-69).
Paul McGinley played reasonably well in the Lancome Trophy at Saint-Nom La-Bretche in France, but all it got him was a tie at 24th place. McGinley’s five-under 279 (72-69-68-70) left him nine strokes behind Pierre Fulke, a first-time winner on this circuit. Des Smyth finished with six others at 57th place, scoring 285 (69-70-73-73). Unable to clear the cut line at 143 were Philip Walton, 145 (74-71), and Eamonn Darcy, 149 (79-70).
European Tour Q-School
The chase is on to qualify for next year’s European Tour. The first stage of Q-School whittled over 300 aspirants down to 105 who advance to the next stage, which will be played in late October. Eleven golfers from both the Republic and the six counties teed it up at four venues in England, with two moving on. James Loughnane and Jim Carvill both finished among the top 25 finishers (plus ties) in their respective brackets.
Loughnane, who has been plying his trade in Africa in recent years, left not a stroke to spare at the Carden Park Cheshire Course, tying for 21st place with five others at 295 for 72 holes. Loughnane posted rounds of 71, 76, 75 and 73. John Dwyer will have the next 12 months to contemplate a missed putt or a flub that cost him the stroke that left him at 296, one short of qualifying for the next round. Dwyer shot 74, 77, 69 and 76. Others at Carden included John Langan, who had 31st place to himself at 297 (75-71-77-74), Leslie Walker, tied for 32nd place at 298 (71-78-78-71), Gary Cullen (79-70-76-75) and Francis Howley (76-75-75-74), tied for 41st spot at 300, and Raymie Burns, all alone in 49th position at 304 (77-72-75-80). This group featured 61 golfers.
Carvill tied for 14th place at The Wynward Club with an aggregate of 281 (69-71-67-74). A score of 283 or better was needed to advance. Among those who failed to do so were Graham Spring, tied for 63rd place at 294 (72-77-71-74) and Conor Mallon. Because of the bulky 102-man field here, a 54-hole cut of 221 or better was instituted, which Mallon missed by two strokes. He shot 223 (71-74-78).
Finally, Damian Mooney will need to forgive himself for his opening 78 at Chart Hills. He followed with rounds of 72, 74 and 71 for a total of 295. Alas, that was two shots adrift of the 293 needed to make the next stage.
Stage 2 will determine who moves on to the final stage, slated for November 17-22 at The San Roque Club and Real Club de Golf Sotogrande in Spain.
Irish Open 2000
After a spin at Druids Glen in Wicklow, next year’s Irish Open will move
westward to Ballybunion, Co. Kerry. Ballybunion, which hosted President Bill Clinton last year, is situated on the Atlantic coast at the mouth of the Shannon River. Tournament dates are June 29 to July 2.