The European Tour have confirmed that the Irish Open Golf Championship 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.
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.
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 (pictured by Getty Images)
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.
Source: European Tour