Curtis Cup at Dun Laoghaire a rare treat for Irish golf fans

Great chance to see likes of Leona Maguire and world No 1 amateur Hannah O’Sullivan play

An ironic twist, wouldn't you think?, that – in the run-up to this 39th edition of the Curtis Cup – one of the courses sought out by the United States team to play was none other than Portmarnock Golf Club.

By all accounts, the welcome for the women at the all-male members club, on the famous old links which is a world away from the purpose-built parkland course of Dun Laoghaire Golf Club in the foothills of the Dublin/Wicklow mountains, was hospitable, convivial and all that you'd expect from a place deemed the cradle of tournament golf on this island.

If we can ever so gently shove the whole gender issue to one side for a moment, there is a link between when went on in Portmarnock and what will unfold in Dun Laoghaire.

Portmarnock was where the Irish Open was first showcased, when George Duncan was required to shove folded newspapers beneath his clothing to combat the weather in winning that inaugural tournament in 1927.


It was also there that the first Walker Cup to be played in Ireland was staged in 1991, an event widely recognised as providing a rebirth of a competition that seemed to be getting jaded.

Shaped shots

That Walker Cup in 1991 was the first to ever be sold-out and first to be televised live, and some of the names who shaped shots on the dunes on that occasion would later become household names:

Phil Mickelson


David Duval

from the USA, our own Pádraig Harrington and Paul McGinley from the Britain and Ireland team.

Then, in 2007, when the Walker Cup returned to Ireland for only a second time, it was again a sell-out. Royal County Down squeezed as many as it could onto its fairways, where an American team that boasted Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson among others defeated a Britain and Ireland team that numbered Rory McIlroy and Danny Willett among their number.

Now, to revert to a gender issue of another kind! Those two Walker Cups were sold-out. Why isn’t this Curtis Cup a sell-out? It should be. It deserves to be.

Some 15,000 tickets have been sold for the three days of competition which certainly is an impressive figure – and hats off to the host club and the ILGU for that – but do people fully appreciate the star quality that will be on show at Dun Laoghaire over the next few days?

These women are the real deal!

Just as the Mickelsons and Harringtons and Fowlers and McIlroys graced the Walker Cups, this staging of the Curtis Cup – in its own way – has the dynamic to be something rather special.

The Curtis Cup is a proven breeding ground for players who move on to the professional ranks and win Majors, with Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson all relatively recent graduates of this biennial match who have shown their pedigree on the biggest of golfing stages.

Who knows for sure which players battling it out at Dun Laoghaire in the coming days will be the ones to follow in those footsteps as Major champions but the omens and the track record would indicate that more than one will do so.

World rankings

Indeed, the two players – one from either side – who have dominated the world rankings for the past year will be on show: our own Leona Maguire, who owned the world number one ranking for almost a full year; and the USA’s Hannah O’Sullivan (clearly with Irish lineage, from Limerick and Tipperary in her case) is the player who usurped her and currently occupies that top spot.

These are exciting times for women’s golf in Ireland.

The Maguire twins – Leona and Lisa – were at the vanguard of this new wave of talent and Olivia Mehaffey has joined in with something of a vengeance to the point where, not too far down the line, it is conceivable Ireland will finally have players capable of winning Major championships just as their male counterparts have done.

And, moving forward, negotiations to bind the Golfing Union of Ireland and the Irish Ladies Golf Union together – gently encouraged to do so by Sports Ireland – are at an advanced stage; no timeframe and all that, but it is going to happen and that can only be for the good of the sport.

Which brings us back to the Curtis Cup . . . and why it isn’t, but should be, a sold-out affair!

It’ll be interesting in the coming days to see how many men are actually in the galleries that line up behind these very talented women golfers on the fairways of Dun Laoghaire.

We know, for sure, that the ILGU has done its part in selling the Curtis Cup to its members and we know that many more supporters are travelling in from all corners of Britain and from across the Atlantic for this showcase of women’s amateur golf.

This is one for the women, for sure; but it’s also a major sporting event that should have men watching and being appreciative of just how good these players are.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times