Posts Tagged ‘European Tour’

The Irish Open 2012 – the tournament that changed everything for Royal Portrush

June 28, 2022

It sometimes feels like decades ago but there was a period of time (2010-2014) when this small part of the world seemed to be at the very centre of the golfing universe. The on-course success of Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke kept Irish golf firmly in the spotlight.
It was in this environment that Royal Portrush made it known that the club was interested in staging a European Tour event, bringing the Irish Open back north of the border for the first time since 1953.
As a tournament, the Irish Open had always been a significant event on the European Tour (now DP World Tour) schedule, but with the demise of the Celtic Tiger, the event was at something of a crossroads.
A move North, even for just one year, could go a long way to reinvigorating the tournament but as with most things in Northern Ireland getting it over the line took a fair bit of diplomacy and would ultimately involve significant commitments from governments north and south of the border, the players, Royal Portrush, and the European Tour.

Ten years on I’ve been chatting to some of the people behind the first ‘sold out’ tournament in the history of The European Tour.

John Bamber was the Tournament Chairman at Royal Portrush for both the Irish Open and more recently the Open Championship.
“Around 2007/2008 the club made a decision to look again at hosting a professional event,” said John.
“We spoke with the Tour about the Irish Open and we managed to get a meeting with Arlene Foster, who was then minister at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) along with a leading civil servant, David Sterling.
“We talked about hosting the event and incredibly they said it was a good idea. We happened just to hit at the right time. Other plans were in the pipeline to host the MTV Music Awards and the Giro.”
Further meetings were held with politicians on both sides of the divide at Stormont but while enthusiasm was high, the fact was that the European Tour had a long-term contract with the Irish Government to stage the tournament south of the border.
John added, “In fairness, it was the then Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, who signed off moving the tournament to the North for one year. The Irish economy had suffered badly in the recession. Had the Celtic Tiger still been in full flow, bringing it north would have been unlikely, but sometimes an ill wind, etc etc.”

Richard Hills, then Ryder Cup Director at the European Tour takes up the story.
“Rory McIlroy rightly gets a lot of kudos for his efforts in saving the Irish Open through his Foundation and the Dubai Duty-Free connection but there was quite a bit of saving the Irish Open before that,” said Richard.
“Ireland has a lot of friends in Wentworth and in the period after the financial crash when there was no main sponsor they were determined to keep it going with a lot of help from Failte Ireland and latterly Tourism NI.
“The Senior Open had been played in the North from the mid 90’s through to the to early 2000s so there was a history there.
“I recall vividly having a drink after the Irish Open in Killarney (2011) and George O’Grady asked the question – ‘Do you think the time is right that we could consider going North?’
“Portrush via Wilma Erskine (then Sect/Manager) had been courting the Tour and Enda said he would go away and think about it.
“We got a phone call just before Christmas in 2011 and early in the New Year, we went across to Belfast to meet with David Sterling and Wilma. That was also the first time that I met Arlene Foster.  The formal announcement was made at Royal Portrush a few days later.
“It moved very quickly. There was a will and there was a window of opportunity.”

The job of staging the event fell to the European Tour’s Championship Director, Antonia Beggs.
“I was the staging director for the Ryder Cup at the time and I was kind of used to fitting square pegs in round holes when it came to delivering golf tournaments,” said Antonia who now works in sports marketing.
“I had been lucky that I had worked on some Irish Opens in the past and it always blew me away how the fans supported their national open compared to other countries. What kind of transpired for the Irish Open in 2012 was, I guess, the stars aligned and everyone looked beyond the remit of just finding a good golf course, getting a decent field and delivering a tournament.
“Instead it was how could we make it different with golf as our platform and that was the seeds around the event being hosted at Royal Portrush.
“We still had to allay fears that it was going to be a disaster, that no one was going to get there and it was going to be a shocker. It just proves that with planning, coordination and trust, anything is possible.”

John Bamber; “I remember going to a council meeting after the deal had been done and having this scary thought, ‘hang on here, we have to put this event on now and the spotlight is going to be on us after so many years without top-level professional golf in Northern Ireland’.
“The membership at the club bought into it from day one. There was a lot of enthusiasm and excitement and everyone just said we will make it work.
“The playability of the course was never going to be an issue. What became a bigger concern for the European Tour was that they didn’t expect that they would sell as many tickets as they did. They began to realise that with the topography of the course it was going to take some serious management.”

Antonia Beggs; “The ticket sales were something of a surprise (27,000 a day during the tournament) and it happened in the blink of an eye. Just think back to the pro-am. We had Bill Murray there who had flown over from the states. It was a day of slight insanity. Imagine, playing in that pro-am and there are 15,000 people on the ground watching? It must have been terrifying.”

The punters continued to flow in through the gates during tournament week even in the face of some testing weather conditions.

Richard Hills; “The absence of a tournament for such a long period of time definitely played into the large crowds. I remember the Saturday morning was a bit wet, wasn’t it? Kevin Feeney (one of the European Tour referees) was at the furthest extremity of the course and he offered two ladies a buggy ride back in and they politely declined, stating that they had, ‘waited a long time for this – they weren’t going to let a bit of rain put us off’.

Amongst the golf memorabilia dotted around John Bamber’s office is a framed letter from the organisers of a high-profile amateur event. Back in the days before the Irish Open, Royal Portrush was bidding to host events.

John Bamber; “We thought we had a very good chance to host it and we made it through to the final three but didn’t get the event. I got a letter from the organisers. They were expecting upwards of 10,000 people over the days of the tournament.
“The letter explained that having looked at the venue and the topography involved there was no way it could host an event with some 3.500 people coming through the doors every day. I bumped into them during The Open when we had 60,000 + people on the grounds daily…..”

Antonia Beggs; “The players were hugely positive. They were blown away by the people turning up. Ultimately, for professional athletes, a lot of the reason why they do stuff is to feel that connection and it was there in spades at Portrush.”

Unsurprisingly, the 2012 winner, Jamie Donaldson, wants to know when the Irish Open is returning to Royal Portrush.

Jamie Donaldson: “I missed out on playing in the Open Championship – what a shame – what a venue.
“Winning the Irish Open opened lots of doors for me. I was eligible to play in all the big events, it was a massive career booster.”
Beginning the fourth round with a one-shot lead, Donaldson birdied five of his last seven holes to shoot a fourth straight round in the 60s and finish clear of playing partner Anthony Wall (69), Rafael Cabrera-Bello (66) and Fabrizio Zanotti (66).
The victory, signed off with a 25-foot birdie on the last, put the seal on an event that had a resonance far beyond the reaches of a normal tournament.
“It was electric all week,” added Jamie.
“It was special. The massive crowds, they were unbelievable, it really felt like a proper event. Portrush was a great town and there was a good buzz.”

Without a doubt, the 2012 Irish Open paved the way for the Open Championship to return. The record-breaking crowds, the smooth event management, the general sense of goodwill and enthusiasm ensured that the R&A saw it as a viable option. 

John Bamber; “We had all the luck in the world.
“We had the right political environment, that was vitally important. We had the support of the R&A and Peter Dawson who was open-minded about the opportunity. We had professionals competing at the highest levels around the world and we had supportive local, national and worldwide press.
“But ultimately, we had to prove that we could host the event. Without it, I strongly suggest that I could have been receiving a letter in 2013/2014 saying that they had looked into it but decided that the venue couldn’t accommodate in excess of 20,000 people every day.
“The Irish Open was the catalyst for 2019 and everything that has followed.”

Perseverance pays off for Caldwell in Sweden

June 14, 2021

Jonathan Caldwell poses with the trophy after his win at The Scandinavian Mixed Hosted by Henrik and Annika
(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Perseverance doesn’t always pay off.
All the hard work and dedication in the world won’t necessarily translate into success.
It’s why we enjoy victories like those achieved by Richard Bland and most recently Jonathan Caldwell that little bit more.
Jonny’s maiden European Tour victory at the Scandinavian Mixed Hosted by Henrik & Annika may finally mean that he is no longer simply referred to as ‘that guy who partnered Rory McIlroy at the Walker Cup in 2007’.
The 37-year-old set the clubhouse target at 17 under after equalling the best round of the week with an eight under 64 – also the best round of the final day – which was closed out in style thanks to a remarkable second shot from the rough for a tap-in closing birdie.
He then had to wait and watch Spain’s Adrian Oteagui and England’s Alice Hewson try and overtake him.
Oteagui had an opportunity to clinch the title at the death after giving himself a birdie opportunity at the 72nd hole for an 18 under total, but his three-putt meant Hewson was the last person standing with a chance to force extra holes.
The 23-year-old had to hole out with her approach at the 18th to do so, but a par four for a three-under 69 meant she still claimed the honour of the highest-placed Ladies European Tour player, in outright third one stroke behind runner-up Otaegui.
With his win, Caldwell became just the eighth Northern Irishman to win on the European Tour, rising to 43rd in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex in the process.
“I worked in the local Nevada Bob’s in Bangor in Northern Ireland for four or five years while I was playing EuroPro Tour, I’d work Saturday, Sunday, Monday, travel Tuesday morning, back home Friday night and I did that for four or five years,” said the Clandeboye man.

“Lots of times I lost faith, but you can think like that, especially after a bad week on the EuroPro Tour –‘what am I doing sort of thing’ – but I certainly didn’t want to spend the rest of my days working in a golf store but I stuck with it and persevered and thankfully I did.

“Obviously to win is special enough but to be doing the winning presentation there on the 18th green with Annika and Henrik – two absolute icons in the world of golf – is quite unbelievable to be honest.”

Lawlor to host ISPS HANDA World Disability Open at Massereene & Galgorm

May 25, 2021


As part of the exciting new 2021 EDGA European Tour season, leading disability golfer, Brendan Lawlor, will host the first ISPS HANDA World Disability Invitational from July 31 – August 1.
Set to be played at Massereene Golf Club and Galgorm Castle Golf Club, the event will run alongside the historic tri-sanctioned ISPS HANDA World Invitational, presented by Modest! Golf featuring the stars of the European, LPGA and Ladies European Tour.
“I’m so proud to be able to host an event of this calibre on the island of Ireland,” said Lawlor who became the first professional golfer with a disability to play a European Tour event at the UK Championship last year.
“It was only three years ago that I was working with my Dad in the family business and playing golf on the side. I never even dreamed of playing the game for a living, never mind hosting an event.
“I owe so much thanks to both the European Tour and Modest! Golf for making this happen. The EDGA have been brilliant too but all three groups share my vision that golf is for everyone and I can’t wait for us to put on a show to prove it this summer in Northern Ireland.”
Lawlor, who was born with Ellis-van Creveld syndrome, a bone growth disorder that leads to shorter limbs, has been putting on shows through his performances both in able-bodied golf and disability golf for years.
A winner of the inaugural EDGA Scottish Open in 2019, Lawlor might be small in stature but his impact on the game has been huge with no-one more proud than Modest! Golf owner Niall Horan of his client’s achievements.
“I’m over the moon that Brendan can showcase all that is great about disability golf with a tournament under his own name,” said Horan.

“Brendan grabbed our attention long before he was a Modest! Golf client. He is an inspiration and living proof that no barrier is too big when it comes to, not just golf, but to life. Golf is a game for everyone and there’s no better example of that than Brendan given all the challenges he’s been able to overcome. It’s an honour to represent him.”

Brendan Lawlor is an ambassador for tournament title sponsor, ISPS HANDA which has championed disability golf for more than three decades.
ISPS HANDA Founder and Chairman, Dr Haruhisa Handa said, “We are thrilled for Brendan to be hosting the inaugural ISPS HANDA World Disability Invitational. Not only is Brendan an exceptionally talented player, he is a brilliant ambassador for golf, proving its accessibility as a game for all. We are incredibly proud to have Brendan as one of our ambassadors and it has been a great delight to watch his progress and achievements over the last few years.”
The ISPS HANDA World Disability Invitational presented by Brendan Lawlor is part of the European Tour’s drive for inclusivity in golf. It forms part of the 2021 EDGA European Tour, which will take in four new tournaments for Golfers with Disability during its UK Swing before the top eight players qualify for the EDGA Dubai Finale to be staged at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai at Jumeirah Golf Estates in November.
Massereene Golf Club will host day one of the event on Saturday, July 31 with Galgorm Castle Golf Club deciding the fate of the title on Sunday, August 1. Lawlor’s sponsors Kinetica Sports, ISPS Handa, American Golf and adidas Golf will all be supporting this historic event.

Tickets have now gone on sale for the 2021 ISPS HANDA World Invitational presented by Modest! Golf.
Organisers remain optimistic that a limited number of spectators will be able to attend at Galgorm Castle and Massereene from July 28 – August 1, 2021. A flexible ticketing plan has been put in place and organisers will comply with all government guidelines at the time, while ticket numbers at both host venues will be restricted.
“This really is a positive move and exciting announcement, not just for the ISPS HANDA World Invitational but for the country as a whole,” explained Gary Henry, Event Director, ISPS HANDA World Invitational.
“After such a long period of restrictions, we are delighted to be able to get back to some sort of normality and for the chance to showcase Northern Ireland through a live international sporting event.
“The ISPS HANDA World Invitational will be played at a key time in the height of summer and is the perfect opportunity for families and friends to enjoy a fun and responsible day out at a live outdoor sporting event.”
Fans looking to purchase tickets can take advantage of the Early Bird rates currently available to purchase online. A world class event with excellent value ticket options means demand for tickets will be high. To purchase tickets, please visit https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/150314144653.

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/.

Sharvin takes another step in the right direction at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open

July 10, 2019


Not everyone is capable of launching themselves into professional golf like Matthew Wolff.
If there is still merit in gradual progression than Cormac Sharvin took another step on the ladder at the recent Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
The Ardglass golfer, without a win to his name as a professional and a regular on the Challenge Tour, finished the tournament as the leading Irish competitor, seven shots behind the eventual winner, Spain’s Jon Rahm.
“To be top Irishman this week is an honour for me. There’s some of the best players, like Shane Lowry is top-50 in the world and there’s a lot of good players from Ireland, so to be top Irishman is great,” said Cormac.
“Coming into this week I knew that I could compete with these guys and I tried to keep myself in that mindset all week and I proved that I can this week.”
A final round level par 71 at Lahinch may not have been the closing fireworks he had hoped for but, it earned him the biggest cheque of his career, some €85,000.
For a golfer struggling to make his way on the less lucrative Challenge Tour, this windfall could make all the difference as looks to build on his strong display in Co Clare.
“It’s obviously a bit of comfort. I always like to have a caddie, so that helps me get a caddie from now on. Caddies are expensive, but I don’t have to worry about that side of things. It’s a big help for sure,” said the 26-year-old.

“Obviously to compete with the best in the world is going to give me confidence going forward. In terms of my mindset, it’s something that I’ve worked really hard on the last year or so, and to see it hold up on the biggest stage is great.”

Calm and composed throughout the week, there was some signs of frustration at the end with ‘mistakes’ scuppering his chances of a really strong finish.
“I didn’t play much differently to what I had done in the first three days. I just got off to a bad start,” he added.
“I managed to pull it back and then just missed it a couples of times on the wrong side at the start of the back nine and made a few bogeys.
“I felt like I fought back pretty well from the start and handled myself pretty well out there today.
“I think that shows the work I’ve done off the course in terms of staying patient and not letting shots get me down.
“I just tried to stay really patient and take the next shot as it came. I got unlucky a few times today and I tried to concentrate on the next shot and I think I’ve done that really well.”

Sharvin finished well clear of more recognised players such as Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington but while they move on to the Scottish Open and The Open, he has returned to the Challenge Tour in France this week.
He continued; “If I can compete with the best in the world, I mean, I can definitely win on The Challenge Tour.  I think that’s the thing for me. Like I probably haven’t had everything this week, so for me to be able to compete, not having everything, it shows that I can stay out here.
“I already had huge confidence in getting my card this year. This is only going to add to that and hopefully, I can get off The Challenge Tour as soon as possible and get out competing with these guys.”

Captain Harrington opts to ‘tweak’ European Ryder Cup selection process

May 8, 2019


Europe’s 2020 Ryder Cup captain, Padraig Harrington, will have three wildcard selections available to him after convincing the European Tour’s Tournament committee to change the selection process.

The 12-man European Team will comprise the first four players from the European Points List, followed by the leading five players from the World Points List, leaving Harrington with three names to complete the line-up, a decision which will be unveiled in the week after the final counting event – the 2020 BMW PGA Championship.

Harrington said: “I have said on many occasions that one of the reasons for recent European success in The Ryder Cup is continuity. It is a theme that will be prevalent across my captaincy and I think you can see that in the overall qualification process for the 2020 team.

“Having said that, I am pleased that the Tournament Committee agreed to the change of Wild Card numbers (from 4 to 3). I have spoken to a number of people regarding the ninth player automatically qualifying for the team and in my experience, a player is more comfortable when he has qualified, hence my reasoning behind this change.

“I am also delighted to be starting and ending the process at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. It is one of our most prestigious events, played at an iconic venue and the home of the European Tour itself, and will help give a real narrative to the qualification race.”

Available Race to Dubai points and World Ranking points will be multiplied by 1.5 towards the end of the qualification period, the tournament where this starts to be confirmed when the European Tour issues its 2020 schedule later this year.

Also similar to last year, qualification points in both 2019 and 2020 will not be available anywhere in the world from a tournament played opposite a Rolex Series event, further enhancing the status of the premier series of events on the European Tour.


Key points

• Qualification will start at the 2019 BMW PGA Championship and end at the 2020 BMW PGA Championship

• The first four qualifiers will come from the European Points list, the next five from the World Points list

• European Captain Padraig Harrington will have three wildcard picks

• Points will be weighed by 1.5 towards the end of the qualification period

• No qualification points will be available anywhere in the world opposite Rolex Series events

No guarantees of Masters success for Rory

April 9, 2019


We’ve been here before, Rory McIlroy and The Masters.
According to the perceived wisdom, Rory’s game is tailor-made for Augusta National.
It’s a done deal. He’s bound to win it. The Holywood golfer will pull on the green jacket and join the list of golfing greats to complete the grand slam.
It’s all nonsense of course. Speak to Greg Norman about winning at Augusta or ask Phil Mickelson about the grand slam. The 48-year-old is still waiting on that elusive US Open win to book his own place amongst the golfing legends. Nearly 20 years of trying and he’s finished second six times.
There is ample evidence to suggest that Augusta National suits the games of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Keopka and Justin Rose just as well as Rory, maybe even better. And if they are considered genuine contenders, can anyone seriously rule out in-form Francesco Molinari or Paul Casey?
The truth is that some parts of Rory’s game, his driving, his long iron play give him an advantage at Augusta, but his inconsistent wedge game and his shaky putting have held him back.
Yet for all that, as the 29-year-old gears up for the opening major of the season, and his 11th appearance at The Masters, there are genuine reasons to be positive about his chances, the most significant being his very strong competitive start to the season.
At the back end of last year, when he signaled his intentions to stay closer to home in Florida and focus more on the US PGA Tour it was seen by many as a direct slap in the face to the European Tour.
He insisted that it was all about getting back to the summit of the game and his performances would suggest that he made the right decision. No missed cuts, seven top 10’s, a second and crucially a win at the Players’ Championship where he had to dig deep after an early wobble.
He is now up to third in the world and his putting has certainly improved under the guidance of former tour pro Brad Faxon but his wedge play still needs some work, especially from 75-100 yards in. Even just a small gain could make a decisive difference.
He also heads to Augusta full of confidence following that win at Sawgrass but the real test will be how he deals with expectation levels, both public and personal. He has spoken in recent months about the three P’s – patience, perspective and poise – and that mantra will surely be put to the test at Augusta.
Ahead of the recent Dell Match-play event he said; “I would have said a couple of years ago, ‘I need to win a Masters. I need a Green Jacket’. Where now it’s, ‘I want to. I want to win it. And I’d love to win it’. But if I don’t I’m okay.
“I’ve had ten years of learning at Augusta, some tough times. And if one day I’m able to get that Green Jacket at the end of 72 holes, all of those experiences will have played a part in helping me do that. So have I a desire to do it? Yes. Do I have a need to do it? No.”
He’s playing well, he’s seemingly in a good place mentally only time will tell if 2019 will be his year.

Lowry and Fleetwood confirmed for DDF Irish Open Open at Lahinch

February 5, 2019


Shane Lowry will be joined on home soil this July by Ryder Cup star Tommy Fleetwood, when the duo compete in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
Tournament host Paul McGinley is bringing the prestigious event to the iconic Lahinch Golf Club in County Clare for the first time from July 4-7.
For Lowry, it will be a much-anticipated homecoming after the popular Offaly player claimed his first European Tour title in three and a half years in the opening Rolex Series event of the 2019 campaign, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.
It’s 10 years since Shane claimed a remarkable breakthrough victory in his home event – when, as a 22-year-old amateur, he overcame Robert Rock in a play-off to become just the third amateur winner in European Tour history.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Lowry.
“Going to Lahinch – it’s in a beautiful part of Ireland, on a great golf course, and if the weather is good, honestly, you won’t get a nicer place in the world.
“I think Paul will do a great job, and I think as always Dubai Duty Free do a fantastic job. The fact that it’s part of the Rolex Series is amazing and I’m lucky enough and happy to be going there as a Rolex Series champion. I’d love to win another home title and hopefully, it will be this year.

“I don’t really remember much from 2009, but it obviously kick-started my career. It doesn’t feel like ten years, it feels like it’s gone a lot quicker than that. I’ve played in every Irish Open since, and every time I go back, it’s just special. I always say that Irish Open in Baltray was probably my greatest achievement to date and probably will always be, unless I can top it with a Major.”

Joining Lowry at Lahinch – which is consistently ranked inside the top 100 of the world’s greatest golf courses – is one of the game’s most popular stars, Englishman Fleetwood.
Fleetwood’s most recent victory also came in Abu Dhabi, in 2018, and the 28-year-old has since remained in the top 20 of the Official World Golf Ranking, come close to earning a maiden Major title at last year’s U.S. Open and played a starring role in Europe’s Ryder Cup victory at Le Golf National last September.
“I’m very excited about it because I missed it last year and I was really disappointed because golf in Ireland is one of those places I’ve always enjoyed playing, and to get that chance again this year, it’s going to be fun,” said Fleetwood.
“I’m very happy that I can support Paul. He’s always been great with me from my first few years on Tour, and always took the time to give me advice.
“Links golf, especially around that time of the year, we have such a great run of events, and it’s very important to just get that feel. We very rarely play that kind of golf throughout the year, so any chance you get to have a feel for it, and play in some slightly different shots, get a feel for how the ball reacts in the wind and the turf, I’m looking forward to it. It’s perfect preparation for The Open.”

Tickets for the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open are on sale at www.dubaidutyfreeirishopen.com and begin at €23 for Pro-Am Wednesday, with single tickets for Thursday or Friday costing €30 and day tickets for each weekend day costing €35 each. An adult season ticket, which covers five days of world class golf from Wednesday to Sunday, begins at a special price of just €110.
Children under 12 years of age are entitled to free entry when accompanied by an adult, day junior tickets for those between 12 and 17 years of age are €10 (€30 for a season ticket) while those aged between 18 and 21, as well as students with valid student cards and over 60s, can avail of a concession ticket – €20 for a day (€80 for a season).
Official Hospitality tickets are also available on the ticketing page, or alternatively contact the European Tour’s dedicated Hospitality Sales Team, who will be happy to answer any queries and discuss the various hospitality options, on hospitality@europeantour.com or +44 (0) 1344 840681.

Manley and Kim lead day one at NI Open

August 17, 2018

Stuart Manley
(Getty Images)

The unique appeal of the Challenge Tour was perfectly illustrated by the two names topping the leaderboard at the close of play on day one of the Galgorm Resort and Spa NI Open, presented by Modest! Golf.
Success on this tour is a stepping stone, a bridge to potential riches on the European Tour and so it brings together hungry young competitors searching for their first taste of the big time and more established players hoping to return to the summit.
As the sun set on day one, 17-year-old Minkyu Kim from South Korea and 39-year-old Welsh journeyman, Stuart Manley, led the way on seven under par.
Behind them on six under par was 41-year-old Richard Finch, a winner of the Irish Open in 2008, Marcus Armitage (31) who played on the European Tour in 2017 and 26-year-old Denmark’s Victor Gebhard Østerby.
They would all love to win this week at Galgorm Castle but the ultimate aim is not to be back here playing next season and to do so automatically, they need to finish in the top 15 of the Road to Ras Al Khaimah rankings.
Manley, who sits in sixth place in the rankings, was in superb form carding seven birdies in a bogey-free round of 64. Following one victory, two top-five finishes and two further top-ten results this season, Manley knows he is well-placed to regain his European Tour playing rights – something another good result could all but guarantee this week.
“It would be great to get the job done this week,” he said.
“It has been a very successful and consistent season so far so it would be a great to get a couple more big finishes and secure my card for next year.
“I putted very well, kept the ball in play and I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to play today so I’m very happy with my start.

“I have been struggling with my neck since Saturday but credit to the European Tour’s physio team as without them I wouldn’t have been able to play for sure.”

Also impressing on his first visit to Northern Ireland was Kim. The 17-year-old, who became the youngest player to win on the Challenge Tour following his victory in the D+D REAL Czech Challenge in May, carded one eagle, six birdies and one bogey and was delighted to return to form following a difficult stretch.
“I played very well today,” said Kim who is currently 34th in the rankings.
“I putted very well and I was perfect off of the tee until the last two holes where on 17 and 18 I missed the fairway by a long way, but I still managed to come away with a bogey and a par. It wasn’t a great finish but overall I am very happy with my performance today.
“After winning in the Czech Republic I have struggled to find form, but this week I am feeling really focused and so far that has shown in my play.”
Cormac Sharvin fired a four under par 67 to lead the Irish challenge.
“It was a great start, I see there are a few good scores up there but it wasn’t playing easy by any stretch of the imagination. At times the wind got up and there were little bits of rain so I’m happy with four-under,” said the 25-year-old who started his round at the 10th.
“I missed a few chances but I held it together towards the end and I had a couple of good saves on five and six, holed a nice one on seven and then hit it close at the last.”

Lahinch gets the nod to host Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in 2019

May 17, 2018

Paul McGinley pictured with the ‘Lahinch Goat’ on a recent visit to Lahinch Golf Club
Credit – Lahinch Golf Club

The 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open will be played at Lahinch Golf Club from July 4-7, 2019, the European Tour announced today, following consultation with next year’s tournament host Paul McGinley, tournament sponsor Dubai Duty Free, and local stakeholders.
It will be a landmark moment for Ireland’s national Open when it lands on the shores of County Clare for the first time in its 91-year history, building on the vision of the European Tour and title sponsors Dubai Duty Free to take the event to Ireland’s greatest links courses.
As a Rolex Series event, the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open will once again feature a minimum prize fund of $7 million and will attract a world-class field to Lahinch Golf Club, providing a huge boost to the local and national economy.
The tournament enters a new era next year when McGinley leads a rotation of Irish golfing legends – Major champions Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell – in the hosting role, taking over the mantle from Rory McIlroy. The four-time Major champion’s charity, the Rory Foundation, has successfully hosted the tournament since 2015.
The winning 2014 Ryder Cup Captain will host at a venue for which he holds a great affinity, having triumphed at Lahinch as an amateur when he claimed the South of Ireland Championship in 1991.
The Dubliner will be aided in his preparations for the 2019 event by his close friend and one of his Vice-Captains during The 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, Des Smyth, who was recently announced as Tournament Ambassador, a role which will see him help in the marketing and promotion of the event for the next four years as well as aid a successful transition between each of the hosts.
Paul McGinley said: “Lahinch is one of Ireland’s truly iconic links golf courses and I am delighted to be taking the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open there. Embedded in the history of Irish amateur golf, as well as in the hearts of our many international visitors, it now deservedly gets the opportunity to showcase itself on the world stage.

“We are very proud of our great links courses in Ireland and Lahinch has evolved to rank as one of the very best. It will challenge some of the game’s best players to produce skill, creativity and a mindset rarely tested in professional tournaments.

“The club and the community have left no stone unturned in embracing the idea of hosting the tournament and I look forward to working with them over the next 14 months to put in place a tournament that will honour a great venue, town and people in what is a stunning part of the Irish southwestern coastline.”
The 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open will also represent the first year of a partnership between the European Tour Foundation and the respective hosts to provide a programme of charitable support across the country.
Ambitious fundraising targets will be set to support various projects throughout the island of Ireland including the host’s own Foundations, environmental issues, local and national charities, education and the development of both grassroots and elite junior golf programmes.

Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, said: “I am delighted to announce today that the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open will be played at Lahinch Golf Club, continuing our desire to take the tournament to Ireland’s great links.
“We extend our grateful thanks to everyone at the golf club, the local authorities in County Clare and everyone in the south west of Ireland for coming together to make this happen. The tournament is one of the great and historic events on the European Tour, raised to a new level in recent times by the commitment of our title sponsor Dubai Duty Free and its Executive Vice Chairman and CEO Colm McLoughlin, alongside the support of our own Rory McIlroy in recent years.
“Now the hosting baton has been handed over to Paul McGinley and it would be remiss of me not to mention the hard and meticulous work that he has personally put in throughout this selection process. We look forward to working with him, and everyone involved with the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, in 2019.”
Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO, Dubai Duty Free, said: “We are happy with the choice of Lahinch Golf Club as the venue for the 2019 edition of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
“Lahinch is a very well-known and popular links course with a 125-year history and has seen many of the greats play there including Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Greg Norman as well as all the Irish golfers including Paul McGinley who will act as the tournament host next year.
“In the meantime, we are looking forward to another great tournament this year at Ballyliffin and think that the players are going to enjoy this equally spectacular golf course in Donegal.”

Situated on the west coast of Ireland, Lahinch Golf Club celebrated its 125th year anniversary last year and the famous Old Course on which the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open will be played, regularly features in lists of the top golf courses in the world.
It is home to the South of Ireland Championship, an amateur golf tournament which began in 1895, and whose notable champions, aside from McGinley, include two other future hosts of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open; Darren Clarke who won in 1989, and Graeme McDowell who triumphed in 2000.
Designed originally in 1894 by Old Tom Morris, the Old Course at Lahinch Golf Club was built on a stretch of huge sand dunes overlooking the Atlantic Ocean which provide a dramatic and picturesque landscape as well as a challenging but enjoyable test of golf.
In 1907, Charles ‘Mo’ Gibson of Royal North Devon Golf Club led a redevelopment before one of the finest architects of the 20thcentury, Alister MacKenzie – who designed Augusta National among many other – provided a new lay-out in 1926.
Some 74 years later in 2000, renowned British course architect Dr Martin Hawtree modernised the Old Course, while incorporating many of the touches which made MacKenzie’s design so special, to provide the layout which the stars of the European Tour will enjoy in 14 months’ time.