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Thursday, 03 April 2014
(L-r)  Alan Clarke, Chief Executive of the NITB, First Minister the Rt. Hon. Peter D Robinson, MLA, George O’Grady; Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster, Dr Peter Brown, Captain of Royal County Down & George Deane, Captain of Lough Erne ()
(L-r) Alan Clarke, Chief Executive of the NITB, First Minister the Rt. Hon. Peter D Robinson, MLA, George O’Grady; Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster, Dr Peter Brown, Captain of Royal County Down & George Deane, Captain of Lough Erne ()

• Royal County Down Golf Club to host next year’s event from May 28-31, 2015|

• Irish Open will return to Northern Ireland in 2017 at Lough Erne Resort

 



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The European Tour today confirmed that the Irish Open will return to Northern Ireland in 2015 and 2017, with Royal County Down Golf Club hosting next year’s event from May 28-31, 2015, followed by Lough Erne Resort in three years’ time.

It will be the first time in 76 years that the Irish Open has been played at the world famous Royal County Down in Newcastle, Co. Down, as Northern Ireland hosts the event for only the second time in the last 60 years, following the hugely successful 2012 edition at Royal Portrush.

Record crowds watched Jamie Donaldson’s victory at Royal Portrush two years ago, making it The European Tour’s first ‘sold out’ tournament.

Now, following an agreement between The European Tour, the Northern Ireland Executive and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, the event will return to Northern Ireland for the 11th time next year, before heading back to the country in 2017 when Lough Erne Resort, in Enniskillen, Fermanagh, hosts an Irish Open for the first time.

Given the anticipated high demand, the 2015 Irish Open at Royal County Down Golf Club is likely to be another all-ticket affair, with tickets going on sale with immediate effect via www.europeantour.com/tickets on a first come-first served basis.

Royal County Down Golf Club was recently voted fourth on Golf Digest’s 2014 list of the World’s Top 100 Courses, underlining its reputation on the global golfing stage.

(L-R)  First Minister the Rt. Hon. Peter D Robinson, MLA, George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster, Dr Peter Brown, Captain of Royal County Down Golf Club. ©Press Eye Ltd

George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, said: “The Irish Open at Royal Portrush in 2012 captured the imagination of the country after a lengthy absence, and we are delighted to confirm today that the tournament will be back in Northern Ireland next year, at another magnificent links venue in Royal County Down, before returning again in 2017 at Lough Erne Resort.

“We must acknowledge the vision and commitment of First Minister Peter Robinson, Minister Arlene Foster, and their colleagues within the Northern Ireland Executive and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board to secure the return of the Irish Open to Northern Ireland in 2015 and 2017, which further underlines the country’s presence on the world stage following the outstanding achievements of its players in recent years.

“Indeed, it was Rory McIlroy’s inspired suggestion to me during the 2013 BMW Masters in China that proved to be the catalyst for today’s announcement, and we are confident that our players will relish the chance to compete for the Irish Open title at this iconic links course next year.”

Making the announcement at Royal County Down Golf Club, First Minister the Rt. Hon. Peter D Robinson, MLA said: “When Northern Ireland hosted the 2012 Irish Open we staged an incredibly successful event, which not only exceeded our own expectations but it also became the first European Tour event in history to sell out.

“More than 130,000 spectators travelled to the north coast to see the world’s golfing elite in action and the feel-good factor that it generated created a huge sense of civic pride. I have no doubt that next year’s event at Royal County Down will be equally successful.

“In addition to having three major golfing champions, Northern Ireland is home to arguably the best concentration of great golf courses in the world. With the Irish Open secured for 2015 and 2017, we look forward to building on the legacy of events such as the Irish Open in Royal Portrush in 2012, last year’s highly successful G8 Summit and the World Police and Fire Games.”

The deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: “The 2015 Irish Open being staged at Royal County Down and 2017 Irish Open at the Lough Erne Golf course is tremendous news not just for golf fans but for all of us.
 
“Securing the 2015 and 2017 competitions will be a significant boost for the tourism industry and wider economy. The success of local golfers on the international stage offers us the perfect platform to promote the north of Ireland.
 
“I thank The European Tour for their vote of confidence. High profile sporting events like the Irish Open generates global exposure and the Executive is determined to play its part in making the events a resounding success. The Executive supported Royal Portrush in 2012, which had record breaking attendances, and I am confident the 2015 and 2017 competitions will be just as successful.”

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster said: “We proved that Northern Ireland makes the ideal venue for top flight golf tournaments when we staged the record breaking 2012 Irish Open.

“Royal County Down is a spectacular course and the spectacular scenery around the coast will provide a wonderful backdrop for coverage of next year’s tournament. I very much welcome The European Tour’s decision to stage the Irish Open at Lough Erne in three years’ time. Having already played host to the some of the world’s most powerful leaders during the G8 summit last year, it will now host some of the world’s greatest golfers.”

Alan Clarke, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, added: “Attracting the Irish Open back in 2015 and 2017 as part of a four-year deal with The European Tour has been a key part of our events strategy since we proved so successfully in 2012 that Northern Ireland is a fantastic host for this championship. The spectators, the organisers and the public came together to stage a record-breaking event here and I have no doubt that both Royal County Down and Lough Erne will provide an equally exhilarating experience for everyone in 2015 and 2017.

“The return of the Irish Open to Northern Ireland further boosts our efforts to grow domestic and overnight visitor numbers and spend, and build our capacity to host other major national and international events. Hosting the Irish Open will further consolidate our reputation as a golf destination and we will be maximising the opportunity not only to showcase our world-class golf, but other aspects of Northern Ireland such as our scenery, food, music and other attractions.”

Dr Peter Brown, Captain of Royal County Down Golf Club, said: “Royal County Down is delighted to have been asked to host the Irish Open from May 28-31, 2015.  We look forward to welcoming members of The European Tour to our world famous links which we believe will provide a good test of golf.  We also hope that many golf supporters will come to Newcastle to watch top quality golf and take in the wonderful natural setting that Royal County Down enjoys.”

Ferghal Purcell, General Manager of Lough Erne Resort, said: “We are delighted and privileged to be selected as host of The 2017 Irish Open, a major sporting celebration and something that will be of enormous benefit in showcasing the beauty, the facilities and the hospitality of this wonderful part of the world.

“The Irish Open 2017 at Lough Erne Resort will be good for the Resort, good for Fermanagh and good for Northern Ireland. We will endeavour to host an Irish Open to make Northern Ireland proud.”


Lough Erne Resort


The Irish Open’s return to Northern Ireland reinforces Northern Ireland’s reputation as a golfing destination and the country’s position at the forefront of the game, following the ground-breaking success of its players on the global stage. 

In the wake of Ireland’s Padraig Harrington winning three Major Championships in 13 months in 2007 and 2008, a run preceded by his victory in the 2007 Irish Open, Graeme McDowell picked up the baton by winning the 2010 US Open Championship at Pebble Beach.

He was succeeded 12 months later by Rory McIlroy, who re-wrote the record books with a stunning eight-shot victory in the US Open at Congressional Country Club in June 2011, before claiming his second Major title at the 2012 US PGA Championship and ending that season as Number One on the Official World Golf Ranking and the European Tour’s Race to Dubai champion.

Darren Clarke completed a hat-trick of Major Champions to emerge from Northern Ireland with an emotional Open Championship victory at Royal St George’s in July 2011, while another Northern Irishman, Michael Hoey, has also enjoyed considerable success on The European Tour, with five titles to his name.

All four received a rapturous reception at Royal Portrush in 2012, and McIlroy welcomed today’s confirmation that they will get the opportunity to compete on Northern Irish soil again next year at Royal County Down and in 2017 at Lough Erne Resort, where he was the former Touring Professional.

McIlroy said: “We all thoroughly enjoyed the experience of playing an Irish Open in Northern Ireland two years ago so it is fantastic news that we will have another chance in 2015 and again in 2017.

“Royal County Down is another great links course, which I know particularly well, and it is one which I am very proud of as a Northern Irishman, so I’m delighted to have the opportunity to play an Irish Open there. I’m sure the fans will come out and support us again and make it another week to remember.”

McDowell added: ““It’s great to hear the Irish Open will return to the north in 2015 and 2017. There are few better golf courses in the world to play than Royal County Down so it’s all good as far as I am concerned.

 “It’s important that the fans get to see their favourite players north and south, so we support the Irish Open always no matter where it is, but as Northern Irish players, to have played Portrush in 2012 and to be heading to Royal County Down next year is very special.

“The 2012 Irish Open at Portrush really put Northern Ireland back on the golfing map. I don’t think anyone really knew just how big that event was going to be as it smashed all sort of European Tour records. I think that proved how big the appetite for golf is in this part of the world, and I am sure Royal County Down will bring its own success.

“Royal County Down is one of those courses that once you get to know it you realise just how much of a world class golf course it really is. You have got to play it a few times to find your way round those blind tee shots, but the more and more you play it, the more you realise just how good it is.”

Carton House in Co. Kildare hosted the 2013 Irish Open, won by Ryder Cup player Paul Casey, who will defend his title at the Fota Island Resort in County Cork, from June 19-22, before the spotlight then falls on Royal County Down Golf Club next year. 


Royal County Down

Founded in 1889, Royal County Down Golf Club is located in the beautiful Murlough Nature Reserve and set against the magnificent backdrop of the Mountains of Mourne. It has previously hosted the Irish Open on three occasions, staging the second Irish Open – and first on Northern Irish soil – in 1928, won by Englishman Ernest Whitcombe who also claimed the title upon the event’s return to the venue in 1935.

The Irish Open was last played at Royal County Down Golf Club in 1939, when another Englishman, Arthur Lees, was crowned champion, while the Newcastle links also hosted The Senior Open Championship on three occasions from 2000-2002 - won by home favourite Christy O’Connor Jnr, Australian Ian Stanley and Japan’s Noboru Sugai respectively.

Latterly it hosted the 2007 Walker Cup, which featured McIlroy, and 2012 US Open Champion Webb Simpson, and it was McIlroy who helped inspire the move for Royal County Down to host next year’s Irish Open.

Lough Erne Resort is home to two Championship Golf Courses - The Faldo Course, designed by six-time Major Champion Sir Nick Faldo, and Castle Hume Golf Course. The resort is set on a private 600 acre peninsula between Lower Lough Erne and Castle Hume Lough.

(L-R) Dr Peter Brown, Captain of Royal County Down Golf Club,  Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster, George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, First Minister the Rt. Hon. Peter D Robinson, MLA, Alan Clarke, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, John O’Neil, Sales and Marketing Director of Lough Erne Resort. ©Press Eye Ltd

 

 

 WINNERS OF THE IRISH OPEN IN NORTHERN IRELAND

2012

Royal Portrush

Jamie Donaldson

270

1953

Belvoir Park

Eric Brown

272

1949

Belvoir Park

Harry Bradshaw

286

1947

Royal Portrush

Harry Bradshaw

290

1939

Royal County Down

Arthur Lees

287

1937

Royal Portrush

Bert Gadd

284

1935

Royal County Down

Ernest Whitcombe

292

1933

Malone

Bob Kenyon

286

1930

Royal Portrush

Charles Whitcombe

289

1928

Royal County Down

Ernest Whitcombe

288

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