The European Challenge Tour returns to Northern Ireland this week for a new look event, the ISPS Handa World Invitational Men | Women, Presented by Modest! Golf Management, which will feature a men’s and women’s field competing over the same courses, at the same time, for equal prize money.
Ahead of the innovative event, which gets under way at Galgorm Castle Golf Club and Massereene Golf Club from August 15-18, we offer the lowdown on all you need to know about the ISPS Handa World Invitational.
Inclusion to the fore
For the first time in the Challenge Tour’s history, the World Invitational will see men and women compete for two titles over the same courses for equal prize money.
Akin to the ISPS Handa Vic Open in Australia earlier this year, the weekend of the tournament will see alternating tee times between the two fields, with the winners of the men’s and women’s events set to be crowned on the same green, within minutes of each other.
In addition to the stars from the Challenge Tour, the local crowds will be able to watch some of the standout players from the women’s game in action, with Solheim Cup Captain Catriona Matthew and Charley Hull, who is set to tee it up in the biennial showpiece at Gleneagles Resort in September, and Irish Olympian Leona Maguire all confirmed to participate.
Hill on verge of promotion
Calum Hill could secure automatic promotion to the European Tour if he can replicate his 2018 triumph at Galgorm Castle this week. The Scotsman secured his maiden Challenge Tour title at the Northern Irish venue 12 months ago and comes into the new-look tournament in outstanding form, having captured two titles in his last three outings.
Following last week’s victory at the Made in Denmark Challenge – Presented by FREJA and his first win of the season at the Euram Bank Open in July, the 23-year-old is just one win away from earning his promotion to the top-tier of European golf, courtesy of the three-win rule. With an aggregate score of 67 under par for his last four events, and a strong performance at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open, where he finished as the joint leading home player, few would put it past him to earn that life-changing victory this week.
Rasmus and Nicolai Højgaard may be familiar faces on the Challenge Tour but they won’t be the only double act performing in Northern Ireland this week.
Local stars Leona and Lisa Maguire are also set to tee it up at the innovative new event, with the pair looking to secure their first victory on home soil since turning professional last June.
Leona enjoyed an acclaimed amateur career, occupying the top spot in the World Amateur Golf Ranking for a record 131 consecutive weeks, as well as representing Ireland in the 2016 Rio Olympics while still an amateur.
The Danish pairing, meanwhile, were the second set of twins to represent Europe in the Junior Ryder Cup in 2018, after, you guessed it, the Irish twin sisters, who played in the event a decade earlier at the age of just 13.
A family affair
The twins won’t be the only family members set to tee it up in Northern Ireland this week.
Brother and sister pairing Moritz and Karolin Lampert will also be in the field, alongside husband and wife team Kylie and Scott Henry.
With Mr and Mrs Henry going head to head at the Jordan Mixed Open earlier this year, the pair may be relieved that they can both play for bragging rights this week, with the tournament format meaning that the pair could both clinch the respective titles on the same green come Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, the Maguire twins will be joined by younger brother and Irish International Odhran, who alongside inaugural EDGA Scottish Open winner Brendan Lawlor, has been extended an amateur invitation to the tournament.
The golfers won’t be the only stars in action this week, with the ISPS Handa World Invitational Celeb Pro-Am on 14th August set to feature a host of notable Irish figures from across the world of sport and entertainment.
One Direction star Niall Horan who, alongside his management company Modest! Golf Management have been instrumental in bringing the tournament to life, will headline the star-studded line-up, which will feature actor James Nesbitt, record breaking Champion Jockey AP McCoy, fellow Irish pop star Brian McFadden and impressionist Conor Moore.