Rory McIlroy played key role in Royal County Down’s selection
Former world number one’s ‘inspired suggestion’ in 2013 paved the way to Ulster links course
It was announced today that the Irish Open is set to return to Northern Ireland in 2015 and 2017.Royal County Down Golf Club will host next year’s event from May 28th-31st while, in a first for Northern Ireland, the tournament will be staged at the Lough Erne resort in Fermanagh in 2017. Pictured (left to right) Dr Peter Brown, Captain of Royal County Down, Arlene Foster, MLA, Minister of Enterprise Trade and Investment, George O’Grady, Chief Executive of the European Tour, First Minister Peter Robinson, Alan Clarke, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Tourist Board and John O’Neill, Sales and Marketing Manager, Lough Erne Resort. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Presseye/Inpho
Royal County Down will host the tournament for the first time since 1939 from May 28-31 next year, with Lough Erne Resort staging the event in 2017. The Irish Open was last held in Northern Ireland in 2012, when record crowds watched Jamie Donaldson’s victory at Royal Portrush. European Tour chief executive George O’Grady 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.”
Former world number one McIlroy, who succeeded compatriot Graeme McDowell as US Open champion in 2011, 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.”
England’s Paul Casey won the Irish Open at Carton House last year and will defend his title at Fota Island in Cork from June 19th-22nd. Fota Island could also stage the 2016 event.