Out of Bounds: light at the end of the tunnel for Irish Women’s Open

Venture between Ladies European Tour and LPGA could see tournament finally return

Suzann Pettersen and her caddie celebrate victory in the 2011 Irish Women’s Open. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Suzann Pettersen and her caddie celebrate victory in the 2011 Irish Women’s Open. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

 

Just like that, some light has shown itself at the end of the tunnel. The partnership between the Ladies European Tour and the Ladies Professional Golf Association is a win-win situation, and raises significantly the possibility that the Irish Women’s Open - in a dormant state since 2012 - will be revived.

Indeed, the rebirth of the Irish Women’s Open has instantly gone from a possibility to a probability!

As part of the joint-venture, which came into play when LET players backed the deal at their annual general meeting in Spain on Tuesday, the LPGA Tour will bring its “global strength” to the table in building on a shared vision to strengthen the lot of those players on the LET circuit, which has struggled to step out of its big sister’s shadow.

This has all happened very quickly, over a time-scale of just 60 days. But the benefits to the LET made it a no-brainer. This year’s LET schedule - which continues with this week’s Andalucia Costa del Sol Open where Leona Maguire is among those competing, and which next year will see the order of merit rebranded as the Race to the Costa del Sol with a bonus pool - featured 20 tournaments in 13 countries, but the immediate aim will be to increase that itinerary significantly, which is where the Irish Women’s Open should benefit.

“Two teams, joining for one common purpose, will create opportunities we simply could not have pursued on our own,” is how LET Board Chair Marta Figueras-Dotti put the joint-venture, adding that the impact of the LPGA’s support “will be a positive result for virtually all of our LET members.”

Sophie Gustafson with the trophy after her 2010 Irish Open win. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Sophie Gustafson with the trophy after her 2010 Irish Open win. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

That LPGA commissioner Michael Whan, into his second decade as head of the US circuit which has grown into a global one, was so effusive was notable.

“We have experienced incredible growth in women’s golf in the US and this is an extraordinary opportunity to accelerate and expand the game in Europe as well. I’m excited that this is something we will build together, with the LET,” is how Whan put it.

The lack of an Irish Women’s Open on the LET schedule since 2012 - especially given that it was a powerful tool in getting the 2011 Solheim Cup to Killeen Castle, a hugely successful event - has been something of a glaring slight on women’s golf here, especially with the men’s DDF Irish Open going from strength-to-strength as one of the European Tour’s Rolex Series events, and also with the Ryder Cup scheduled for a return to this island at Adare Manor in 2026.

Now, there is again light at the end of the tunnel for those pitching to get the Irish Women’s Open back onto the LET schedule.

It is overdue.

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