Irish Open still has a big role to play on the European Tour

Winner Paul Casey, like the event itself, has had a bumpy road back to prominence

The crowds turned out in force for the Irish Open at Carton House in Maynooth to watch England’s Paul Casey triumph. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

The Irish Open, played on the Montgomerie Course at Carton House, marked the rejuvenation of the flagging career of Englishman Paul Casey. He won in swashbuckling style by holing an exciting monster eagle putt on the final green to stretch his winning margin to three shots.

It has been a bumpy road back for the former number three, who had been used to perhaps considering a rest for tournaments such as the current Irish Open in the good old days. This year he was more than happy to compete in a starting list of players that would not have been so intimidating after the bigger Irish names missed the cut.

Winning, of course, is never easy, but it may be even more difficult to consider victory having been through a slump. You could almost make a direct analogy of the travails of the Irish Open and its life-cycle alongside the career path of Casey.

The Irish Open was, in a foregone era of European and World golf, a prestige event. Before the inundation of golf on television where you could watch it day and night to the point of indifference, the golfing Irish nation and others made the Irish Open a special week in their calendar.


When it was held at its unofficial home in the 70s and 80s at Portmarnock, such exotic names as Ben Crenshaw, Hubert Green, Gary Player and Seve Ballesteros used to appear on the north Dublin coast like some exotic stars, who were previously only seen on TV screens at the mystical Masters in April.

Genuine privilege
It was an era when seeing star players was a genuine privilege and we were not suffering from golfing overkill. We have lived through the heady days of Ryder Cups, World Golf events and European Opens being a ho-hum regular feature to simple pro-ams being held in Limerick, with a better field than any Irish or European Opens put together. How could an Irish Open possibly make an impression in a recession and austerity-ravaged Europe in 2013?

The organisers and hosts did not hold back with creativity and forward thinking when it came to the exciting prospect of Carton House revisited. They admitted that they were not quite ready to host such a big event as they did previously in 2006 where there was no on-site hotel and the grass was still growing on the relatively undeveloped new Monty Course. They also got very unlucky, with the wettest week possible for the tournament.

Despite it not being a beautiful week of summer weather last week it was very acceptable, so there were no valid complaints from the competitors on that front. The course was fairly set up and encouraged lower scoring, with generous fairways and sensible greenside preparation. The luxurious hotel could not have been any closer to the golf course.

If the caddie catering was a barometer for the general culinary conditions then there could be no feasible complaints from the dining rooms. There was a general sense of well-being amongst the visiting caddies and players about the Irish Open this year but still the numbers just didn't really add up.

Perfectly acceptable
An attendance of over 80,000 in the vast Carton Demesne last week in today's competitive environment is perfectly acceptable. The fact that over 110,000 turned up in Portrush last year probably dwarfs those figures. What more can an event with no title sponsor and a date that does not really press all the buttons for success do?

A European golf tournament is a hard sell in today’s economy and I suppose its time for all of us with maybe unrealistic expectations to realise that the figures are perfectly acceptable if you have a realistic outlook.

Despite live golf being a wonderful day out and an opportunity for people to get together in a very sociable and tranquil environment such as the Carton Estate, there are too many other live events competing for those customers at this time of year in our little country.

If the tournament was let slip away or become a challenge event I am sure there would be a sense of loss amongst golf fans in this enthusiastic sporting nation. Without appearance money, with the sense of allegiance of our super-star home players and with the support of those commercial forces that still believe in an Irish Open, we are still fortunate to have such a prestigious professional Open event held at a wonderful venue.

The Irish Open is not the biggest event in the world golfing calendar but it is still a worthy tournament for those of us who take it for what it is, a significant event in Irish sport.