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GUI announces major changes to the championships

Who says the GUI doesn’t listen to the players or the clubs that host the big events? On Friday evening — a poor time to dump significant news about our six amateur “majors” — the Golfing Union Ireland announced some badly needed changes.

They affect qualification criteria for the four provincial championships and the Irish Amateur Open and Irish Amateur Close and the nuts and bolts of the running of those events. Moving away from handicap-centric qualifying criteria, which was arguably a major cause of abuse of the handicapping system.

A top-four finish at any one of Ireland’s six ‘majors’ will guarantee that player’s place in the field for the next six. That means that there will be no repeat of last year, for example, when 2014 South of Ireland champion Stuart Bleakley failed to get a place in the 2015 West of Ireland field on his handicap and made an unsuccessful bid to make it via the qualifier.

Under the new rules, a player who reaches the semi-final stage of the West of Ireland, North of Ireland, South of Ireland or Irish Amateur Close Championship, or who finishes in the top-four (including ties) in the East of Ireland or Irish Amateur Open Championship, will get an exemption into the next playing of all six Championships that close for entries following this performance.

The winner of the Irish Youths, Leinster Youths, Munster Youths and Ulster Youths Championships will also receive an exemption along these lines for the six ‘majors’.

In addition, starting with the Irish Amateur Open Championship in May, WAGR rankings will be used to help determine the make-up of the field in these Championships, in another move that will take some of the emphasis away from player handicaps when it comes to deciding the starting lists.

Other significant changes to the rules of Union and Provincial Championships include a reduction in the age limit for Mid-Amateur Championships to 30, and a reduction in the age limit of the Irish Seniors Close Championship to 50. Both changes reflect the changing face of amateur golf with the majors now dominated by players under 25.

There are a number of significant format changes to events, including the provision of a playoff for all players tied for the last place in the match play draw of the Irish Amateur Close Championship, and for the draw for match play to be based entirely on stroke play scores. This change will also apply to the West of Ireland Championship at the end of March. 

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