Lough Erne misses out on Irish Open amid claims Euro Tour is now pursuing ‘links strategy’

The 10th at Lough Erne

The 10th at Lough Erne

There is a great sense of frustration in the statement released by the owners of the Lough Erne Resort following the European Tour’s announcement that the Co Fermanagh venue would not be hosting the Irish Open in 2017.
Tourism NI officials were informed at the weekend of the European Tour’s decision and Monday’s official confirmation only served to rubber-stamp what was already a widely held belief.

Read this report from earlier in the year.
http://www.newsletter.co.uk/sport/golf-news/lough-erne-resort-insist-plans-are-in-place-to-host-irish-open-2017-1-7189096

EUROPEAN TOUR STATEMENT
The European Tour can today confirm that the 2017 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation will not take place at the Lough Erne Resort.
European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley said: “During a recent visit to the Lough Erne Resort, I was delighted to meet with the owners and to learn more about their significant investment plans for the golf course and hotel. It is a beautiful facility with an outstanding championship golf course designed by Sir Nick Faldo.
While the 2017 Irish Open will not be staged at Lough Erne, the European Tour looks forward to working with the new ownership consortium, and I am confident that the Lough Erne Resort will host an event with the European Tour in the future.
“Details of the 2017 venue will be announced in due course, but in the meantime we are solely focused on ensuring that the 2016 tournament, which will be staged at The K Club in County Kildare in six weeks’ time, is a great success.”

It looks like there is a promise of an event of some type in the future but that will be of little consolation for everyone at Lough Erne and in Fermanagh as a whole.
The Irish Open is big business and usually provides a major boost to the local economy. It appears that Portstewart GC will reap the rewards, particularly as according to the Lough Erne statement the European Tour is now pursuing a ‘traditional links course strategy’.

LOUGH ERNE RESORT STATEMENT
“We are extremely disappointed that the European Tour has announced a change in its decision to hold the 2017 Irish Open Championship at Lough Erne Resort. From the day we acquired the Resort, we have been excited and committed to hosting the event, and we have never waivered from that commitment.
We have in fact continued to make additional investments in the course and the Resort facilities, both of which are in superior condition to when the 2014 announcement was made.
But, over the last several months, senior tour officials began telling us that European Tour management was considering a ‘traditional links course strategy’ for future Irish Opens, and because of that new strategy there had been indications that the 2017 date at Lough Erne might be in jeopardy.
From the beginning of those conversations, we have remained steadfast in our position not to accept this change from the Tour, and we have spent the last few months trying to work with Tour officials at the highest level to persuade them to keep their commitment to Lough Erne Resort and the region.
However, despite our willingness to work with the Tour in every way to convince them to maintain their commitment, they have made the decision to change the venue to a traditional links course in 2017 and at this point we have no choice but to accept it. We are disappointed not only for the Resort, but also for our staff and the good people of County Fermanagh.
We have to accept the decision that the Tour has made, with its strategic commitment to links golf in the Irish Open for the near future, and we do welcome the decision to keep the Open in Northern Ireland next year.
If and when that strategy changes, Lough Erne Resort looks forward to being first in line to host the next Irish Open that is not on a links course.
We would like to thank all of those that worked so hard on initially obtaining this event for Lough Erne Resort. We would especially like to thank officials of the Northern Ireland Government for their unwavering support for Lough Erne Resort and for doing everything possible to avoid this outcome.
While we are clearly disappointed with the European Tour’s decision, the Resort’s ownership group remains committed to working with Tour officials towards bringing a future Irish Open or an equivalent event to Lough Erne Resort.”

A ‘links strategy’ has long been mooted for the Irish Open but to my mind, this is the first time it has been referred to as tour policy. It will be interesting to see if Tour officially confirm that they only want to take the Irish Open to links venues in the future. If that’s the case, the likes of Mount Juliet and the soon to be refurbished Adare Manor Resort might be reconsidering their own ambitions.
On a more positive note the Lough Erne statement reveals that the Irish Open will return to Northern Ireland in 2017 although, once again, that has clearly not been confirmed by the European Tour.
If the Tour is following a links strategy, then by a process of elimination, Portstewart will be the host venue given that Royal Portrush is currently being redeveloped for The Open and Royal County Down is highly unlikely to take it back so soon after the staging in 2015.
None of this will be going down well amongst the corridors of power at the NI Executive who made a significant commitment to the European Tour in 2014 when the Lough Erne announcement was first made.
If the tour is working on a links course strategy then it flies in the face of the government’s strategic plans to grow the value of the golf tourism business in Northern Ireland. Could that jeopardise any further financial and logistical investment from the Stormont Executive in the Irish Open??
For background on the NI Golf tourism strategy read – The Irish Open, Lough Erne and the government’s £50million tourism strategy

A spokesperson for Tourism NI said; “Together with the NI Executive, Tourism NI has been working towards staging the tournament at Lough Erne Resort, as announced by the European Tour in April 2014.
“We are therefore extremely disappointed at today’s decision by the European Tour not to stage the Irish Open at Lough Erne in 2017, which was formally communicated to us over the weekend.
“We have requested an urgent meeting with the European Tour to discuss options open to the Executive following the announcement, and where this decision leaves plans for the return of the Irish Open to Northern Ireland which is a matter of contractual agreement.
“We welcome the European Tour’s commitment to Lough Erne in the future and expect these plans to be forthcoming as a matter of urgency.”
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One Response to “Lough Erne misses out on Irish Open amid claims Euro Tour is now pursuing ‘links strategy’”

  1. Gary Lavery Says:

    I blame you and all your media cronies for playing the LE resort too many times with your media golf days out….ITS YOUR FAULT KELLY…………………………

    Regards,

    Gary Lavery

    Gary Lavery
    Angling Active Clubs Co-ordinator
    Email: gary@anglingni.com
    Mobile: 07718300302
    Office: 02838891122
    Twitter: @anglingni
    http://www.anglingni.com
    • Loughgall Country Park, 11-14 Main Street, Loughgall, County Armagh, BT61 8HZ

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