One had to admire the brave efforts of the superlative field that qualified for the match play stages of the South of Ireland Championship at Lahinch last week.
To a man they played outstanding golf in what might charitably be called the vilest of conditions with lots of shocks and lively talking points to savour.
I even have praise for the Munster Branch Officials who gave the players a stern lecture on the 1st tee (in public) about how slow play would be frowned upon and dealt with.
Lahinch is traditionally a graveyard for 'favourites.' This year was no exception. Only one full time amateur, Conor O'Rourke, managed to reach the last four. In an Irish (and Lahinch) context at least, the World Amateur Golf Rankings can be dismissed as irrelevant.
The working amateur is still alive and kicking! No wonder 'the GUI elites' prefer to play abroad and avoid playing in championships at home - if they can.
With Irish places for the Home Internationals and perhaps a Walker Cup place or two up for grabs - the elite panel had to show up at Lahinch this year. In my view, the best solution (by far) to overcome the 'uncertainties of match play' is to run the tournament in the 54/16 format.
The extra 18-holes of qualifying will allow the cream a better chance of rising to the top. Under the present regime (36/64) too many elites are 'dispatched' in the rounds of 64 and 32 and never even reach the last 16 but I would hate to see the match play segment disappear altogether.
As the twice 'South' champion, Vincent Nevin, likes to say: “stroke play is a test of golf; match play is a test of the man”
The impressive finalists, Conor O'Rourke (Naas) and James Sugrue (Mallow) displayed outstanding physical fitness and generated extraordinary power through their legs; essential when driving a golf ball into a 'heavy wind.'
But, putting counts most and when Sugrue holed a 35-foot on the exposed first green for a birdie three he put a firm grip on the oldest and handsomest trophy in Irish golf, which never once slackened. Sugrue (20) is a 'beast' of a golfer with a great future ahead of him.
Although, he lost an absorbing final O'Rourke did nothing wrong. He played superbly throughout his eight rounds and should have done enough to be elevated to (well-deserved) Walker Cup status.
Sugrue seems impatient to pursue the pro game but might be wise to refine his game further before taking the plunge.
Long Putter Fiasco
I fully understand that anchoring and not the long putter per se is illegal. By all accounts, Bernhard Langer (winner of the British Seniors at Royal Porthcawl on Sunday last) is furious that some media people were saying he is cheating.
I haven't gone that far but I am unequivocal in my thinking that the way Langer, Ian Woosnam, Scott McCarron and Billy Mayfair (to name but a few) use the long putter is highly questionable.
If I was competing against them, I'd be seriously annoyed and upset. To be frank, I don't believe the long putter should be allowed in any shape or form. As it happens, it doesn't matter what I think.
It ‘is’ allowed, so that's that - no argument until the rules change and become easier to interpret and administer.
Armchair golf enthusiasts
THE venerable BBC is fighting back! The Beeb, and not SKY SPORTS, will be showing us the TV pictures of this golf's season's fourth major, The PGA Championship showdown to be held at Quail Hollow from August 10 to 13.
Live coverage begins on iPlayer, online and the red button, with the conclusion of each day's play shown on BBC Two.
All I want (to finish off a fascinating season of golf watching) is to see a good old-fashioned gunfight between Rory the Outlaw and the all time good guy, Jordan the Sheriff.
As well as that news, we now learn that it is by no means a gimme that SKY SPORTS will have THE MASTERS on our screens in 2018 either.
What is going on? Is TV golf as we know it about to come to an end?
I'm bracing myself that my obsession with sport on TV in general will become more one dimensional than ever or perhaps cease altogether. If Sky follow their UK model, I won't be willing to pay SKY Sports separately for football, cricket, boxing, wrestling (is that a sport?) coverage that I rarely, if ever, watch.
If I have to pay for a dedicated sports channel it will be golf, and only golf. However if SKY Sports does not have blanket coverage it will be of little value.
The loss of the PGA may be only the tip of an oncoming iceberg capable of sinking all golf coverage on TV, or at the very least changing how the sport can be viewed in the future?
The biggest worry for TV golf fans (like me) is how these changes will affect The Masters and Ryder Cup? Will they be streamed directly onto hand held devices or end up following the pay-per-view model?
The PGA of America and Ryder Cup have yet to announce which direction in which they will go long term but my information is they are considering the PPV option very seriously.