A handful of local golfers tee off today in pursuit of landing the ‘Holy Grail’ of Ulster amateur golf.
Despite producing some excellent golfers, no-one from the Ballymena area has ever landed the prestigious North of Ireland Open Championship.
The closest the title ever came to coming to Ballymena was in 1972 when the late John McAleese was beaten in the final, while Dermot McElroy was also pipped at the final hurdle in 2010.
The Championship starts with two rounds of stroke play on Monday and Tuesday, with each player tackling one round over the unforgiving contours of the Dunluce course at Royal Portrush and Portstewart.
The top 64 players reach the matchplay stage, which is whittled down to the final two on Friday.
A six-strong Galgorm Castle Golf Club contingent is led by Michael Reid, who reached the quarter-final stage in 2013. He is joined by club-mates Daniel Reilly, Jonathan McNeill, Michael Dallat, Jamie Sutherland and Jordan Hood.
Dermot McElroy is the only Ballymena Golf Club player to have met the qualifying criteria for this year’s competition.
While Ballymena has yet to produce its first ‘North’ champion, neighbouring Massereene Golf Club has had the famous trophy in its cabinet twice - firstly when Jimmy Heggarty won it in 1975 and then more recently in 2004 when it was won by Trevor Coulter.
There’s a strong entry from the Antrim club this year with Christopher Hull, Philip Gibb, Colin Hull, Dale Jackson, Ryan McCullough, Derek Turkington and Tiarnon McLarnon.
Jordan Logue (Hilton Templepatrick) completes the line-up of Ballymena and Antrim golfers in the field.