Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Torrance and Woosnam in Irish Showdown

Ryder Cup winning Captains Sam Torrance and Ian Woosnam will continue their battle for European Senior Tour supremacy when the pair go head to head in the Irish Seniors Open in association with Fáilte Ireland and AIB Bank at Ballybunion Golf Club in South West Ireland from June 5-7, 2009. Torrance is currently leading the Senior Tour Order of Merit after winning his 11th Senior Tour title in the DGM Barbados Open, where he finished four strokes clear of Paraguayan Angel Franco. The 55 year old Scot heads to Ballybunion chasing his third John Jacobs Trophy after finishing as the leading Senior Tour player in both 2005 and 2006. He will also be looking to reclaim the Irish Seniors Open crown he won in 2006 when he defeated America's Jerry Bruner, Chile's Guillermo Encina and Australia's Stewart Ginn on the second hole of a four-man play-off at Sheraton Fota Island Golf Resort and Spa. Torrance added that title to his two Irish Open victories on The European Tour in 1981 at Portmarnock and 1995 at Mount Juliet and will be keen to win again on the Emerald Isle to strengthen his John Jacobs Trophy bid. “The Irish Seniors Open is always one of the highlights of the season and I’ve enjoyed a lot of success on Irish soil so it is a place I look forward to returning to,” said The 2002 Ryder Cup winning Captain. “I’ve been playing beautifully on the Senior Tour this year and my victory in Barbados was some of the best golf I’ve played in a long time. Links golf is always a good test of your game and it will be an important tournament in terms of the Order of Merit race. “The field looks very strong and Ballybunion promises to be a magnificent place to visit and I’m looking forward to the challenge of playing one of Ireland’s great links courses.” Torrance will be joined in the field for the €350,000 tournament by Woosnam, who is looking to retain the John Jacobs Trophy he captured in his rookie season when he became the first former Harry Vardon Trophy winner on The European Tour to top the Senior Tour Order of Merit. The Welshman, who won twice in 2008, moved to the top of the Order of Merit for the first time last season when he finished tied ninth in the Irish Seniors Open at Ballyliffin Golf Club - the same position as Torrance. Like Torrance, Woosnam has also previously tasted success on Irish soil, having won back-to-back Irish Open titles in 1988 and 1989 before leading Europe to Ryder Cup glory at The K Club in 2006. Both players will be hoping to succeed Spaniard Juan Quiros, who returns to Ireland to defend the title he won in 2008 when he produced a sublime approach shot on Ballyliffin’s final hole to finish one stroke ahead of home favourite Des Smyth. Former Ryder Cup player Smyth, who is back playing full time in Europe this season after splitting his schedule for six years with the US Champions Tour, is looking for his third Senior Tour title after winning the Senior Tour Championship in 2005 and the Wentworth Senior Masters in 2007. Northern Ireland’s Jimmy Heggarty, winner of the Senior Tour Qualifying School in November and runner up in the 2009 season opening Aberdeen Brunei Senior Masters presented by The Stapleford Forum, is also in the field along with Peter Mitchell, a three time winner in 2008, and Carl Mason, the all time leading Senior Tour money winner who won the Irish Seniors Open title in 2004. With many of the leading Senior Tour players in the field, spectators attending the 13th edition of the Irish Seniors Open in association with Fáilte Ireland and AIB Bank can take advantage of a unique ticket offer with all season tickets priced at just €15. Charles Perring, Deputy Managing Director of the European Senior Tour, said: “This season ticket offer is something we are delighted to be able to do in such a difficult economic climate and has the full support of our sponsors Fáilte Ireland and AIB Bank. “We have assembled another wonderful field to one of our premier events and this is a great opportunity for the community of County Kerry to see some of the game’s most iconic names on their doorstep.” Martin Cullen TD, Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism said: "I am delighted that Ian Woosnam and Sam Torrance will be competing in the Irish Seniors Open. They have a most distinguished place among European golfers as Captains of victorious Ryder Cup Teams and as outstanding international golfers. “The 2006 victory at The K Club in particular will be remembered as a key moment in Irish sporting history. They will face keen competition however from an extremely strong field, with Juan Quiros fighting to retain his crown, and Des Smyth and Jimmy Heggarty carrying the hopes of golf fans from all over the island of Ireland." “The Irish Seniors Open has become one of the leading senior tournaments in Europe and this is reflected in the strength of this year's entry list. The Ballybunion Old Course, one of the finest links courses in the world, is the perfect setting for this event. “The Irish Government, through Fáilte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority is proud to support the Irish Seniors Open. We are committed to the strategy of supporting the Irish Seniors Open and The 3 Irish Open due to the worldwide media coverage that they receive, which serves as a significant incentive to overseas golfers to visit Ireland and play golf here." At 6598 yards, Ballybunion’s par 71 Old Course, perched atop a beautiful stretch of County Kerry coastline, is widely regarded as links golf in its purest form and features one of the world’s most awesome and aesthetically pleasing hole, the 453 yard par four 11th, named ‘Watsons’ in recognition of Ballybunion’s Millennium Captain and Honorary Life Member, Tom Watson.

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