A series from Golf Ireland bringing you the stories from some of the most interesting golfers and personalities across golf in Ireland.

Words by Darragh Small 

Portmarnock will host the 121st Women’s Amateur Championship from 24 – 29 June 2024.

The winner will have exemptions to the AIG Women’s Open, US Women’s Open, The Amundi Evian Championship, Chevron Championship and likely receive an invite to the Augusta National Women's Amateur Championship.

This year, the tournament poses a tantalising prospect for all 11 Irish competitors who make the trip to Portmarnock in the hope of a life-changing victory.

But for Kate Lanigan, she has the opportunity to make history on a links course she knows well.

The 23-year-old Maynooth native spent much of her time honing her skills on the shallow duneland and 93 years since its last staging here, Lanigan will look to seal the sweetest success next week.

“If you win that, that can change your golfing career,” said Lanigan.

“I see myself as an amateur but something like that would make you question it. Just the names on the trophy, the names who have won it before and the rewards that come with it, you have your Major starts.

“I’d love to see an Irish winner, it would do Irish golf justice.”

A championship steeped in history

The Women’s Amateur Championship is steeped in history, with previous winners including the likes of Kitty MacCann (1951), Philomena Garvey (1957), Lillian Behan (1985), Stephanie Meadow (2012) and Leona Maguire (2017). Now Lanigan hopes to add her name to that list, too.

It comes on the back of a phenomenal year already, one where the Hermitage golfer claimed her spot at The Women’s Amateur thanks to a phenomenal success in the The R&A Student Tour Series Order of Merit.

Ryan Griffin and Kate Lanigan capturing the The R&A Student Tour Series Order of Merits. Photo: The R&A.

Lanigan made history by becoming the first woman from Maynooth University to win that crown. And on the back of that she was chosen as one of four Irish representatives in the Palmer Cup at Lahinch next month.

She has one more year remaining in her Masters of Finance but away from her studies, she has the time to focus on her golf game and has flourished in the Paddy Harrington Golf Scholarship.

“I knew when I was doing my Leaving Cert that the States just wasn’t for me,” said Lanigan.

“I had a look into it but I was happy to do my undergrad in Trinity and really enjoyed that.

“Then Barry Fennelly gave me an amazing opportunity to do the Masters part-time. It’s shown with the student course being able to play so many events and amazing venues and obviously have the reward of the Palmer Cup is very, very cool.

“There’s lots to play for in Ireland now and this year alone we have myself, Emma Fleming, Annabel Wilson, Mairead Martin and Jess Ross so there’s almost like a different wave of people who are getting back into golf at home.”

From Irish championships to Major tournaments

The transition from Trinity College has been seamless and having conquered the student series events, she wants that form to translate to Irish championships and Major tournaments on the horizon.

Next week provides the perfect litmus test with 144 of the best golfers from the around the world playing in Portmarnock, all seeking to replicate the victories of four of the recent Solheim Cup players have won The Women’s Amateur, including Maguire, Emily Kristine Pedersen, Céline Boutier and Georgia Hall.

It is arguably the greatest competitive field ever assembled for an amateur event here in Ireland, with World Amateur Golf Ranking number one Lottie Woad joined by Julia Lopez Ramierez (two) and Rachel Kuehn (six) among the stars set to descend on Dublin.

Filming a CNN documentary ahead of The Women’s Amateur Championship

It is also another chance for Portmarnock to showcase its blissful links to the world and recently Lanigan took part in a CNN documentary in preview of The Women’s Amateur.

“It was very cool. I got a text off a few people in the club and an email and I was put in touch with Neil Ahern from AZALEA,” said Lanigan.

“They had a link with Living Golf which was a TV show looking at golf in Dublin, they looked at Royal Dublin, the links and obviously Portmarnock and it was just before my exams but I said I think that’s a good excuse.

“I think that justified an excuse to put down the books! So I couldn’t say no and it was very cool to see all the cameras and the drones. I was nervous but it was nice to play a few holes and have a chat with the guys.

“That shows you you have to be media trained and have to be able to answer questions and obviously it’s the Women’s Am In Portmarnock, it’s a great representation of the golf course and I’m a member there, so it’s nice to give back.”

Keeping up momentum

Crucially for Lanigan, she has timed her run nicely with both momentum and confidence high after her impressive end to 2023 and the strong form she showed again at the beginning of this year.

Kate Lanigan in action during the KPMG Women's Irish Open last year. Photo: Thos Caffrey / Golffile

Just this week she finished T4 at the Flogas Irish Women’s Amateur Open Championship at Woodbrook, an event won by one of her Irish compatriots, Anna Foster (Elm Park).

And there is no doubt she will have plenty of competition from her Irish teammates, with Beth Coulter (Kirkistown Castle) looking to replicate her brilliant run to the quarter-finals last year, while Sara Byrne (Douglas) and Áine Donegan (Lahinch) have returned from USA with big prospects.

A big win for golf in Ireland

For a championship that dates back to 1893, any Irish winner on Irish soil would be a glorious success for Irish golf, and Lanigan should have every chance of building upon her growing reputation.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an Irish winner because Irish women’s golf is so strong at the moment,” said Lanigan.

“I have been there a few years and the membership are so supportive of the event, they have put in so much work. I think the huge advantage of being a member in Portmarnock is you know that the scores won’t be particularly low and that it’s kind of a tale of two halves.

“It is just getting in through the match play and the course is one of my favourite courses but it’s also one of the toughest I have ever played, especially when the wind gets up.

“So I think that will help, keeping it low in the wind, accepting that you might have a few bogeys in there and just pars are kind of a reward.

“It’s more of a grinding mentality, maybe compared to what we had this week.

“Portmarnock is a great match play course so it’s going to be good.”

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