A handful of Ballymena golfers tee off today (Monday) with their sights set on landing the ‘Holy Grail’ of Ulster amateur golf.
Despite producing some excellent golfers, no-one from this 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 - arguably the area’s greatest amateur player - 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 and Valley courses.
The top 62 players then qualify for the matchplay stage where two rounds are played every day until the final on Friday.
The Galgorm Castle Golf Club contingent is led by Michael Reid, who reached the quarter-final stage in 2013.
He is joined by his club-mates Patrick Dallat, Daniel Reilly, Jamie Sutherland and Jonathan McNeill.
Ballymena Golf Club’s Michael McGarry is also in the field for the opening stages.
His Raceview club-mate Dermot McElroy will join the competition at the matchplay stage on Wednesday.
Along with Cormac Sharvin (Ardglass) the pair have been given byes to that stage after representing Ireland in the European Team Championships.