Massereene prepping for another week in the spotlight with ISPS HANDA World Invitational

April 18, 2021

Massereene Golf Club is one of the host venues for this year’s ISPS HANDA World Invitational presented by Modest! Golf and the historic Antrim venue has had a number of course improvements during lockdown as they prepare to host men and women professionals in July.
The Fred Hawtree designed parkland puts a premium on accuracy – with tree-lined fairways and excellent green complexes – and is one of the oldest venues in Northern Ireland. The members’ club overlooking Lough Neagh was part of the first ISPS HANDA World Invitational in 2019 as one of the venues along with Galgorm Castle.
As attentions turn to this year’s event, staff and volunteers at Massereene have been busy carrying out course improvements that will enhance the player experience and provide an even sterner test for the men and women professionals.
“Over the past year the greenkeeping staff headed up by Mark Cassidy and a large group of club volunteers under the watchful eye of Greens Convenor Brian Reid carried out some major on-course improvements at Massereene. There are 11 new tee boxes, adding just over 200 yards to the traditional layout,” explained Andrew Snoddy, Tournament Director for the ISPS HANDA World Invitational.
The tournament course will play just over 6,800 yards and par will be reduced to 70 from the traditional Par 72 for men.

“Anyone under par for the final three holes will make ground on the field.”

Andew Snoddy, Tournament director, ISPS HANDA World Invitational

Snoddy highlights the Par 3 eighth which was 197-yards but now plays 225-yards, while the Par 4 17th has been extended from 426-yards to 476-yards.
“The changes and new tee boxes mean the Par 3s have great variation that play 130-yards, 154-yards, 198-yards and 225-yards,” he said.

“The closing stretch at Massereene also presents a strong finish; the 16th is a 544-yard Par 5 with water left and right from the tee shot. The 17th is a 476-yard Par four that plays through a lovely area of woodland. The added yardage means the brave players who choose driver off the tee can be rewarded, while the 501-yard Par 4 18th generally plays into the prevailing wind.”

Further development work on the course included a major woodland management project to help air movement around the course and let in more sunlight to shaded areas. The improvements will help turfgrass quality throughout the playing season and for the ISPS HANDA World Invitational.
Tournament officials like Snoddy praised the efforts by Massereene and their team of volunteers.
“On behalf of the European Tour, I would personally like to thank the staff and everyone who gave up their free time to volunteer at Massereene Golf Club over the past 12 months. The excellent course improvements will benefit the tournament and will also extend the playing season for members and visitors too,” added Snoddy.
“We look forward to working closely with the club in the coming months to make the tournament a success and showcase Massereene Golf Club on a world stage.”
In two separate events for men and women but played on the same courses at the same time, players will compete at Massereene and Galgorm over the first two days (alternating courses) before the halfway cut. All male and all female groups will alternate tee times at both venues in two separate 72-hole strokeplay events. The final two rounds will be played at Galgorm with a second cut made after the third round.
ISPS HANDA World Invitational Event Director Gary Henry also welcomed the recent improvements carried out at Massereene.
“Massereene is a great venue that plays an integral part of staging the ISPS HANDA World Invitational. In 2019, the players enjoyed competing at one of Northern Ireland’s well-known parklands. Everyone at Massereene should be commended for the time and investment made to enhance the course that will undoubtedly prove an even greater test for players in July.”
It has been a huge team effort by all involved at Massereene and everyone is looking forward to playing their part in one of professional golf’s most exciting and innovative tournaments.
“We are extremely excited and looking forward to co-hosting the men and women professionals alongside Galgorm for this fantastic tournament,” said Massereene Club Captain John Tipping.
The ISPS HANDA World Invitational is a tri-sanctioned event between the European Tour, LPGA Tour and the Ladies European Tour (LET) and is a first of its kind event in the northern hemisphere where men and women professionals compete for the same prize money in the $2.35million event while competing at the same venues at the same time.
Live coverage of the ISPS HANDA World Invitational will be broadcast on Sky Sports in the UK and Ireland and tickets will go on sale in the coming weeks. To register and be the first to hear when tickets go on sale, please visit https://www.worldinvitational.golf/tickets/.

Only 36 clubs applied to Northern Ireland Sports Sustainability Fund

March 23, 2021


Only 36 of Northern Ireland’s 90 golf clubs applied to receive funding from the Northern Ireland Sports Sustainability Fund.
The outrage on social media at the distribution of funds to 25 clubs failed to acknowledge how few clubs actually filled in the on-line forms.
A handful of clubs were ineligible to begin with, and the criteria involved will certainly have dissuaded others to put forward a case, but only 36 applications seems like a very low number in the context of a pandemic that left clubhouses closed for most of the last 12 months.
Applications included submission of club accounts which were used to calculate an average over three years. It was open to any club that could demonstrate there had been a direct impact on its business because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To put it more plainly, they had to prove they’d suffered losses.
Did the membership boom of 2020 significantly boost the coffers of clubs across NI? Did clubs know about the fund?

Sport Northern Ireland distributed £4.2m worth of funding to golf clubs with Royal County Down (£1.5M) and Royal Portrush (£750k) taking more than half the total allocation (full list below).
It’s worth noting that the application process for accessing this fund was exactly the same regardless of the sport involved. Golf clubs, GAA clubs and football clubs were all asked to provide the same type of information.
A slight tweak was later made for the golf clubs with initial applications adjusted following direction from Sport NI to remove any VAT Refund or Corporation Tax payments that impacted upon the amount to be claimed.
Sport NI state: ‘the fund’s purpose is to help address the economic consequences of the COVID-19 health pandemic effecting the sports sector. It aims to provide the financial interventions needed to stabilise and withstand the worst impacts of COVID-19.’
Eligible sports clubs were invited to apply for funding, via the National Governing Bodies, at the end of 2020 and to be considered for funding, applicants must have met the criteria and conditions set out by Sport NI. Applications closed in January 2021 and Sport NI then began the process of verifying the applications received.
Of the 36 applications received by Golf Ireland, 29 went forward to Sport NI with four applications later withdrawn after submission.
Mark Kennelly, Chief Executive of Golf Ireland said; “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a severe financial impact on golf clubs which, despite being closed for long periods over the last 12 months, have significant costs to bear in maintaining facilities and the courses themselves.
“Golf Ireland is committed to supporting its affiliated clubs in every way we can, and we are delighted that this funding has been secured for clubs in Northern Ireland. A total of 25 clubs will receive funding from this scheme in addition to 145 clubs who benefitted from Sport Ireland Resilience Funding in the Republic of Ireland. Additionally, we hope that several more will benefit from Fáilte Ireland’s Business Continuity Fund in the near future.
“I’d like to express our thanks to The NI Executive, Department of Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey for the funding and to Sport Northern Ireland for considering the submissions that Golf Ireland made on behalf of golf clubs. Their response underlines the vital role of golf in our sports landscape.”

Membership and rounds played increase but BRS Golf survey reveals revenue issues facing clubs

March 20, 2021

Anecdotal evidence of a 2020 membership boom across UK & Ireland has been borne out in the results of BRS Golf’s Covid impact survey of golf clubs in the UK and Ireland.
The 2020 Golf Operation Impact survey was fielded to the BRS Golf Business database of customers and prospects from 10-20 December 2020.
59 clubs across Ireland responded and while 35% of those surveyed saw a dramatic increase in memberships, 58% of clubs reported that revenue was down significantly year on year despite the increase in rounds.

If anyone was ever in any doubt, the results prove that membership alone cannot sustain a club. The modern golf club business model relies heavily on revenue from food and beverage, events, and society and overseas visitors to stay afloat.

The pandemic and associated restrictions kept members away from the fairways for over three months with visitors returning a month later. That coincided with a summer surge in rounds played with 29% of the clubs surveyed reporting an increase of more than 25% year on year.

BRS report that clubs across the UK&I see the renewed interest in golf and club membership in 2020 following the spring lockdown as a huge opportunity for the game to diversify and appeal to young people and women.
When asked about critical elements in 2021 to ensure sustainability, the majority of clubs cited new membership retention as the number one priority.
Many comments referenced the importance of member engagement in 2021, especially as life returns to normal and pre-Covid team sports participants decide where to spend their time and money.
BRS also noted a surge in nine-hole bookings in the UK and Ireland last year with an eyewatering 123% increase year-on-year from 2019 to 2020.
There has been a trend towards more nine-hole golf in recent years with 1.4 million bookings in 2018 and 1.55 million in 2019 but the jump to 3.47 million last year can at least partly be explained by the ‘return to play protocols’ forced on clubs by governing bodies.
With tee times in short supply, many clubs opted to only offer nine-hole golf during those first few weeks back in action after lockdown.

 

 

 

Meadow welcomes return of ISPA Handa World Invitational

February 28, 2021

ISPS HANDA Founder and Chairman, Dr Haruhisa Handa with Modest! Golf Management owner and ISPS HANDA Ambassador, Niall Horan (Photo: Getty Images)


The ISPS Handa World Invitational will return to Northern Ireland in July ensuring that Stephanie Meadow finally has an opportunity to retain the title she won so impressively in 2019.
The pandemic put paid to Meadow’s hopes of defending in 2020 but the Jordanstown-born golfer now has a chance – schedules permitting – when the significantly enhanced tournament returns to Co. Antrim.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to hear that the ISPS Handa World Invitational will be back this year,” said the 29-year-old.
“It’s going to be even bigger than before and is fantastic news for Galgorm Castle and golf in Northern Ireland.”
For the first time, The European Tour, LPGA Tour and Ladies European Tour have joined forces to sanction the tournament.
It will attract a field of 288 players, 144 men and 144 women. The women’s field will be split equally between the LPGA and the Ladies European Tour. The $2.35 million purse will also be split evenly, with men and women competing for two equal prize funds.
“We quietly told our players in a player meeting not too long ago what was to come in Northern Ireland and I can tell that they couldn’t be more excited to tee it up with the European Tour and the LET,” said Ricki Lasky, the Chief Tournament Business Officer at the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA).
A traditional 72-hole stroke play format will be in place with men and women competing at two venues, Galgorm Castle Golf Club and Massereene Golf Club, over the first two days before a halfway cut reduces the field to the top 60 professionals, including ties, in the men’s and women’s draws.
The third round will take place at Galgorm Castle before a further 54-hole cut takes place with the top 35 and ties from the men’s and women’s draws advancing to the final round on Sunday.
Fans can register their interest for tickets and be the first to receive updates by registering online at http://www.worldinvitational.golf or http://www.europeantour.com.
A new pro-only pre-qualifier event for men and women will take place ahead of the tournament in June with further details to follow, while Golf Ireland’s Ulster Stroke Play Championship will provide elite amateurs with the opportunity to qualify and compete in this ground-breaking event.
Amateurs will be able to enter the Ulster Strokeplay Championship through the Golf Ireland website.
The tournament will count towards the European Tour’s Race to Dubai and carry Team Europe Ryder Cup points, while the women’s tournament will count towards the Race to the CME Globe for women on the LPGA Tour, the Race to Costa del Sol on the Ladies European Tour (LET) and Solheim Cup points for both Team Europe and Team USA.

ISPS HANDA Founder and Chairman, Dr Haruhisa Handa, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to continue our support as Title Sponsor of the ISPS HANDA World Invitational, an event which epitomises our belief in the Power of Sport to unite communities and break down barriers. To see the tournament grow to a European Tour and LPGA sanctioned event is a testament to the importance of providing equal playing opportunities for men and women. I am grateful to the dedication to this cause by all tournament partners; Modest! Golf, Galgorm, European Tour, LPGA and LET.” 

One small step for man, one giant leap for golf

February 8, 2021


On February 6, 1971, American astronaut, Alan Shepard became the first, and only, person to ever play golf on the surface of the moon.
Shepard declared the second shot travelled for ‘miles and miles and miles’ but could that really have been possible, and, if so, just how far could Holywood’s Rory McIlroy strike a ball on the moon?
Dr Marc Sarzi, Head of Research at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium (AOP) has been doing the calculations and believes Shepard may have ‘over-estimated’ the distance his ball travelled.
He said: “On the moon projectiles travel further because the pull of gravity is much weaker than on earth and because there is no atmosphere on the moon and therefore no drag.
“Shepard certainly did hit the ball, but hardly as fast as he could have if unencumbered by his spacesuit and certainly not as fast as the likes of Rory McIlroy.”

The NI Golf Channel · Celebrating Alan Shepard’s golf shot on the moon

To celebrate Commander Shepard’s out-of-this-world golf shot, Armagh Observatory and Planetarium has launched an online competition to win some fantastic prizes.
All you have to do is upload videos of you doing a tick-shot to Facebook and tag @armaghplanet using the hashtag #AOPApolloChallenge so everyone can see your attempt.
Don’t forget to nominate your friends and family to do the same! The best shot will win a family pass when Armagh Observatory and Planetarium reopens.
To keep up-to-date with everything that is going on at AOP and to view all terms and conditions for the #AOPApolloChallenge visit www.armagh.space.

 

Portmarnock Links to host Irish Challenge

January 27, 2021

The Irish Challenge will take place over a links course for the first time in the event’s history when the next generation of golfing stars visits the prestigious Portmarnock Links, just outside Dublin City, from May 27-29, 2021.
Set in the grounds of the old Jameson Estate St Marnocks, with breath-taking views over the famous five-mile Velvet Strand, Portmarnock Links is a true test of golf which regularly features in lists of Ireland’s best golf courses.
The Championship course was designed by two-time Masters Champion and former World Number One Bernhard Langer and traverses the famous North Dublin dunes, a natural terrain to please the most ardent of links purists.
The visit to County Dublin forms part of the Challenge Tour’s Road to Mallorca International Schedule, which comprises 25 tournaments in 15 countries across the world. It begins with a three-week stretch in South Africa before returning to Europe for events in the Czech Republic and Spain, then the trip to Ireland for the Irish Challenge.
The top 20 players on the Road to Mallorca Rankings at the conclusion of the Challenge Tour Grand Final at T-Golf & Country Club, Mallorca, will earn full playing privileges on the European Tour in 2022. The last player from the island of Ireland to graduate from the Challenge Tour was Northern Irishman Cormac Sharvin, who resides in Dublin and who was rewarded for a consistent season with promotion in 2019.
Jamie Hodges, Head of Challenge Tour, said: “We are incredibly excited to be taking the Irish Challenge to Portmarnock Links in May.
“We have never hosted an Irish event on a true links course before and I know the players will relish the opportunity to compete on the Championship Course.
“I must extend our thanks to everyone at Portmarnock Links and the local authorities in County Dublin for helping us to make this happen.”
Conor Russell, Director of Golf at Portmarnock Links, said: “The team here at Portmarnock Links are delighted to welcome the Irish Challenge to our magnificent Links. The course will represent a wonderful challenge for the players and will give our own home-grown talent an opportunity to shine on the bigger stage.
“We have supported young Irish professionals through our Winter Series and Pro-Ams for many years and, who knows, this could be just the time to bring home an Irish winner.
“We are looking forward, once again, to working with the Tour and developing our relations for the future.”

Kilpatrick continues to dominate Ulster Alliance events

December 22, 2020


It was the annual Christmas Jumper festive fixture of the Ulster Golfers’ Alliance at Castlerock and nobody celebrated it better than Banbridge professional Richard Kilpatrick.
He clocked up a double success by topping the professionals’ leaderboard and also leading his team to victory.
This was Richard’s third UGA success on the bounce and he credited Alan Dunbar with the success.

After pars at the first two holes, Richard went 4-4-4 for birdie – bogey – birdie. He reached the front apron of the long third hole with a drive and three wood, went out of bounds at the short fourth but made birdie with his second ball, then pitched and putted for another birdie four at the next hole.
He collected further birdies at seven and nine with a drive and 70-yard wedge to five feet at seven while he chipped in for birdie four after missing the ninth green.
Out in three-under-33 but he gave a shot back at 10 when he three-putted for a five. However, that lapse was more than made up for when he eagled the long 15th with a drive and five iron to eight feet.
Lurgan member 17-handicapper Brian Matthews collected the amateur’s nett award on 45 points while visitor Cian Geraghty, who plays off plus-two at Laytown and Bettystown, when home with the Gross prize after carding one-under-par 72.
It was an all-Banbridge quartet that clinched the team prize as pro Richard Kirkpatrick was joined by Kieran and Patrick Magennis plus Christopher Boyce. They combined to card 94 points.

Raflewski Performance Academy goes live at PGA National Ireland

November 29, 2020

Gareth Raflewski with former world number one Lydia Ko


World-renowned short-game coach Gareth Raflewski has returned to his roots after opening his first performance golf academy in Europe at PGA National Ireland Slieve Russell.
A first of its kind in Ireland, the new Raflewski Performance Academy in Ballyconnell, Co.Cavan, features a state-of-the-art performance studio and is being led by PGA National Ireland’s head professional Gordon Smyth.
Raflewski – who is based in Canada but grew up in Omagh, Northern Ireland – has worked with 65 of the game’s best players across the LPGA and PGA Tours, including three women’s number ones over the past three years, and golfers across Ireland can improve their games using the same methods that have made the coach such a global success.
Smyth is a long-time friend of Raflewski’s and, when the chance to work with one of the world’s leading performance coaches arose, it was an opportunity that he didn’t have to think twice about taking.
“As a coach, to be able to go on Tour (PGA & LPGA) and also be mentored by someone like Gareth is incredible,” said Smyth.

“His stable of stars, both on the PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour boasts an unbelievable pool of talent from Major winners to world number ones, so to be able attend events and shadow what he’s doing is phenomenal for me and hopefully in turn, it will be great for Irish golf too.”

With Raflewski’s players having amassed over $10 million collectively in 2019 alone, his coaching skills are certainly a formula which is gaining worldwide attention.
Players using the Raflewski Performance Academy will be able to benefit from some of the latest technology in golf, from the GC Quad which should help players dial-in their wedge game like never before, to cutting edge systems like the Sam Putt Lab, Capto 3D Putting, Swing Catalyst and a bespoke ‘Well Putt’ indoor green.
From the studio, golfers will then take their new-found information to the multiple short-game areas on-site at PGA National Ireland, training their skills with drills and repetitions before putting this practice into play on the golf course.
Smyth added: “We initially planned to launch the new academy in the spring but Covid-19 brought a halt to those plans. A proposed extended stay in Canada in April was cancelled but near daily Zoom meetings with one of the world’s best have still been hugely beneficial.
“I’ve been like a sponge, absorbing as much information as possible from Gareth, and I can’t wait to pass on the skills and knowledge of one of the most respected coaches in world golf to a new golfing audience.”
Raflewski Golf Europe is now taking bookings at https://raflewskigolf.com/europe/ .
Gift certificates are available to purchase at https://raflewskigolf.onlinegolfshop.ca/and for more information about Raflewski Golf Europe, visit www.raflewskigolf.com.    www.slieverussell.ie

Kilpatrick goes back to back with victory at St Patrick’s UGA event

November 18, 2020

Richard Kilpatrick

Richard Kilpatrick went on a back nine spree at St Patrick’s Golf Club, to soar to the top of the leaderboard in the latest PGA Ulster Golfers’ Alliance event.
The Banbridge golfer followed up his recent success at Lurgan GC by posting a five-under-par 64 in Downpatrick.
A birdie three from eight feet on the sixth green launched Kilpatrick’s bid for success but he immediately gave back his advantage at the seventh when he failed to get up and down for par.
Similar trouble befell the Banbridge pro at the short eighth but he reached the turn in regulation 35 when he pitched to four feet for birdie at the par four ninth hole, after being 40 yards short of the green with his tee-shot.
He was back in the red after driving to the front of the 10th green and getting up and down for birdie three. However, again he tossed away his advantage at the short 11th by finding water off the tee.
That was the end of the winner’s woes. He grabbed an eagle on the 13th when he drove 20 yards short of the surface and pitched in. Richard then pencilled in back-to-back finishing birdies at 17 and 18, getting up and down at the short par four 17th and then rolling in a five-footer on the last.

PGA Ulster Golfers’ Alliance Tournament at St Patrick’s
Professionals:
64 (-5) – R Kilpatrick (Banbridge).
66 – S Thornton (Tulfarris Golf Resort).
69 – M Alexander (Blackwood), C Lyall (Donaghadee).
70 – D Hughes (Massereene).
71 – Tara Gribben (Warrenpoint), P Hanna (Lurgan), A Mulhall (Ardglass).
Amateurs: Nett 44 pts – J Connolly 14 (Blackwood).
42 – D Duff 14 (Carrickfergus).
41 – S Purdy 16 (Ballyclare).
40 – J McClure 19 (Blackwood).
Gross 67 (-2) – D Vaughan +1 (Ardglass).

Info courtesy of Tony McGee

McDowell has new appreciation for major opportunities at Augusta

November 7, 2020


Graeme McDowell is hoping a new attitude can put some of his Augusta National demons to bed next week at The Masters.
McDowell previously described his relationship with Augusta as ‘love/hate’ but having failed to earn an invite in 2017, 2018 and 2019 the 41-year-old has a new appreciation for any major opportunity.
“I think the hate side of it has probably gone away because I haven’t been there for a while and it is my favourite golf course in the world,” said Graeme who is completing his preparations by competing in the Houston Open on the PGA Tour this week.
“There’s very few golf courses in the world where there’s not a bad hole and to me there’s just not a bad golf hole at Augusta, it’s just a phenomenal test from beginning to end.
“I think there’s a certain complacency when you’ve been in the top 50 in the world for five, six, seven years in a row and these major championships are just part of your schedule and I think you kind of forget to appreciate them as much as you should.
“They are phenomenal opportunities and you’re one of the best golfers in the world going out in a major championship with a chance to win. That’s a special opportunity and when that’s taken away from you due to some bad golf then you start fighting and scrambling for starts trying to get yourself exempt.

“You know, take The Open at Royal Portrush last year for example. Having to get through the Canadian Open to get there, that kind of stuff. It makes you appreciate the opportunity a lot more than you did when they were just there all the time.”

Graeme made a bright start to the 2020 season and in February he won the Saudi International, his first title on the European Tour since 2014. That win put him back into the top 50 in the world and secured his spot in The Masters field for April but then the coronavirus pandemic took hold and everything changed.
He has struggled to rediscover that early season form on his return to competitive golf but heading into Masters week he believes he’s moving back in the right direction.
“So I think going there next week, I’m very excited about it. There’s like a fresh feeling and I’m looking forward to being back out at one of the most historic major championships there is,” he added.
“Like I say, I do love the golf course and I’m starting to putt the ball probably the best I have this year so going in there with a hot putter is something I’m looking forward to.
“I’ve always been a little frustrated with Augusta because I’ve never really putted the best I can, so going in there with a fresh head and fresh set of eyes and a little bit of a sort of an appreciative attitude is hopefully going to stand me in good stead.
“I’m just looking forward to being out there on that golf course next week. It should be really cool, you know, I feel like I’m 25 again going back into my first Masters. It really is like it’s been that long that I’m excited. It’ll be like Christmas Day when I get out onto the golf course and I just appreciate the opportunity.”

The NI Golf Channel · The NI Golf Channel Podcast Ep 88