Like so many successful endeavours, the history of the International European Amateur Golf Championship betrays an event that has developed in a notably organic way.
It all began in 1986 at Eindhoven Golf Club in the Netherlands, and the event was scheduled to take place every two years. However, it didn’t take long to see that the championship was a popular one, and after the 1988 instalment of the competition in Falkenstein in Germany, it was agreed that it would become an annual fixture in the European Golf Association’s busy calendar.
Since its inception, the event has visited Germany and Sweden three times, Italy, Scotland, France, Finland and Denmark twice each and England, Finland, Spain, Switzerland, Wales, Austria, Portugal and Belgium once each.
As a result, this will be the first occasion Ireland will play host to the event, but the Golfing Union of Ireland has had a strong association with the event for many years, with a number of notable Irish players featuring prominently down through the years.
Ireland’s association with the Championship….
In 1998, Warrenpoint Golf Club’s Paddy Gribben became the first of four Irish players to capture the prestigious title. He followed up his success by representing Great Britain & Ireland in the Walker Cup at Nairn in 1999 – and on that occasion he secured a crucial singles point on the final day to help his side recapture the Cup from the United States.
Stephen Browne from Hermitage Golf Club – a club in close proximity to this year’s venue Carton House – was victorious in 2001. That feat sparked a famous celebration as Browne – who regularly sang professionally at weddings and special events to support his aspirations of becoming a tour professional – was in full voice following his success, admitting later “we had a bit of a sing-song all right”.
Brian McElhinney also won the event in 2003, and would go on – two years later – to complete a rare double by winning the Amateur Championship. Like Gribben and Browne, he went into the professional ranks following a glittering amateur career.
But without doubt the most high-profile of the four Irish winners was Rory McIlroy in 2006, with his victory giving him a place in the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie. Following his success in winning the Silver Medal as leading amateur, McIlroy’s career continued to go from strength to strength. Between turning professional in late 2007 to the present day, his rise through the ranks – from gaining his tour card to winning his first professional event to capturing the US Open in earth-shattering style at Congressional last year – has been beyond remarkable.
2010 US Open champion Graeme McDowell came up just short in 2000, finishing third, but by then it was clear he would become a force to be reckoned with in the professional ranks.
Signs of things to come from the next big superstar….
Among this year’s field there are also bound to be some stars of the future – from Ireland and elsewhere. Not only has this event been a springboard for Irish players, but also for some of the game’s current biggest names – whether they won the tournament or not
Lee Westwood never won the European title, but he did finish runner-up in 1993. Less than four years later, he had qualified for the European team to play in his first Ryder Cup at Valderamma.
Sergio Garcia did win the title in 1995, and in 1997 he finished runner-up. Less than two year’s after that tilt for a second title just came up short, he turned professional and sensationally announced himself on the scene by taking on Tiger Woods down the stretch at the US PGA Championship, just coming up short.
Others who have distinguished themselves at the International European Amateur before going on to even bigger things are 2010 US Open runner-up Gregory Havret, who won in 1999 and Swedish US Tour player Carl Petterson, who was champion in 2000.