Ambitious plans revealed to resurrect the Ladies Irish Open on Belfast stage

Hugh Morrow with Stephanie Meadow (centre) and Betty Morrow (right)

Hugh Morrow with Stephanie Meadow (centre) and Betty Morrow (right)

Plans are at an advanced stage to resurrect the Ladies Irish Open and bring it to Belfast possibly as early as next year.
Belfast born Hugh Morrow, chief executive of Canadian sports marketing firm, Sports Properties International, has revealed an ambitious strategy to relaunch the dormant Ladies European Tour (LET) event.
“I have always had this sense that bringing an event to Northern Ireland would be very special to me personally,” said the 68-year-old who was schooled at Sullivan Lower before emigrating with his family to Canada in 1957.
“The Ladies Irish Open hasn’t been played since 2012. The idea of bringing it back really jumped out and bit me in the backside. This was something we should do.”
Morrow’s company has been the driving force behind the successful Canadian LPGA tournament, the Maulife Classic and he is determined that this new incarnation of the Ladies Irish Open will, “plant a flag and be there for a minimum of five years.”
He continued, “Over the last eight to 10 months I have been searching around, visiting golf courses, meeting with politicians, talking to Tourism NI, Invest NI, Tourism Ireland and Belfast City Council to really establish a platform so we can bring this event back to life.
“We are getting very close. The fact that there is currently no NI government has thrown a bit of a wrench into things but we understand that come March 2 a government will hopefully be reformed and we will begin to move forward again.

“We hope to stage the event in July next year. We have talked to the LET at length and they are very supportive about what we are trying to accomplish.

“We are trying to build a UK swing for the LET that involves the Irish, Scottish and the Ladies British Open all taking place within three weeks of each other. It would make it a unique stop on the LET.”

Catriona Matthew

Catriona Matthew

The Ladies Irish Open has had a fitful existence and was last staged in 2012 at Killeen Castle (Co Meath). Northern Ireland actually hosted the very first Ladies Irish Open in 1983 at Portstewart GC and the following year at Clandeboye GC, an event that was co-sanctioned by the LPGA. However, without further funding and lacking a major sponsor, the tournament was mothballed following Catriona Matthew’s victory in 2012.
Morrow continued; “We are looking for a title sponsor, someone that has the financial strength and the desire to bring back the Ladies Irish Open and get involved in women’s golf across Ireland.
“The funds that we may receive from the likes of Tourism NI are great and we are hoping they will support the event but in the long run we need someone to stand up and and say ‘yes’.
“We believe that the right investment can bring women’s golf to the forefront in Ireland.
“We are working with a Belfast firm to identify some potential sponsors and hopefully, in the next few months I will be coming over to meet with them to discuss the opportunities and the benefits of being involved with the LET and golf in general.”
The Ladies European Tour is clearly supportive of Morrow’s efforts with CEO Ivan Khodabakhsh stating; “Women’s professional golf offers a time proven way for brands to engage with their customers and the Ladies Irish Open presents a unique opportunity to bring people together through the power of sport.
“A Ladies European Tour event offers a shared experience that engages, entertains and inspires people of all ages and athletic abilities. Women’s golf in Ireland has a rich sporting history – and a promising future – and we could not be more excited about the opportunity to re-launch this event.”

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