Gareth Shaw, far right, shows off his swing to Christopher Brooke of Galgorm Castle and Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland's Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment ()
Organisers of the Northern Ireland Open Challenge presented by Clannah and Xjet at Galgorm Castle have announced details of pre-qualifying events for the inaugural edition of the tournament, which takes place from August 29 - September 1.
An 18-hole strokeplay event will take place at the Ballymena venue on Monday August 12, when the top five players qualify for the €170,000 event later that month.
The pre-qualifier is open to all professionals and elite amateurs with a scratch handicap or less. A sudden death play-off will decide the final qualifying place(s) and a maximum of three amateurs can qualify.
After the success of last year’s Irish Open at Portrush, the Northern Ireland Open Challenge presented by Clannah and Xjet affords aspiring young Irish and Northern Irish players the opportunity to compete on home soil and test themselves in a championship environment against some of Europe's most promising young stars.
Gareth Shaw, Galgorm Castle’s touring professional who competes on the Challenge Tour, said: "From a selfish point of view it’s very important to have such a great tournament here in Northern Ireland. It also gives home players the opportunity to get into other events in Europe."
“A number of overseas players will get invited to compete at Galgorm but in turn those invites are exchanged with events in other countries and that’s vital. It is a huge deal to have a tournament like this at home..
“A home event also allows friends, family and coaches to come along to watch during the week and obviously it’s a lot cheaper for us on travel costs too."
Entry to the one-off pre-qualifier is £95 (€110) with the field restricted to 120 competitors. The entry closing date is Monday, July 29th and official practice to take place on Sunday, August 11th after 3pm. The event will be managed and administered by the PGA Irish Region.
There is a further opportunity to qualify for the NI Open Challenge as the winner of the North of Ireland Amateur Open Strokeplay will be invited to tee it up with the professionals.
The annual North of Ireland Amateur Open Strokeplay at Galgorm has quickly built up a reputation as one of the top events on the calendar and carries R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking Points.
The 72-hole strokeplay event takes place on Monday, July 15th-16th when Cormac Sharvin from Ardglass will return to defend his title after winning from a play-off with Massareene’s Tiarnan McLarnon 12 months ago. Other notables looking to tee it up will include Newcastle’s Ireland international Reeve Whitson, the Spanish Amateur champion with aspirations of making this year’s Walker Cup team.
Full entry details for both events can be obtained from www.galgormcastle.com or by contacting Galgorm Castle on +44 (28) 256 51151 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.