Out of Bounds: There’s an inequality at play in Irish golf

Not a whisper of any return of a Ladies Irish Open to the Ladies European Tour schedule

The last time a Ladies Irish Open tournament took place was back in 2012 at Killeen Castle. It was won by Catriona Matthew. Photograph: Inpho

Irish golf, it would seem, can do no wrong at the minute. What with Shane Lowry lifting the Claret Jug and Adare Manor getting the nod for the Ryder Cup in 2026, the spotlight has very much been on this island, yet again punching above its weight in claiming the largesse.

Yet whatever spoils have come this way, and whatever amount of backslapping has taken place, it shouldn’t be overlooked that there is an inequality at play.

Indeed, in all of the moving and shaking, with further government support for the DDF Irish Open as well as for Challenge Tour events and a new Staysure tournament on the Seniors circuit a requisite for getting the Ryder Cup, the women’s side of the professional game has been left out of the loop.

Not a whisper of any return of a Ladies Irish Open to the Ladies European Tour schedule.


I accept that negotiations with the PGA European Tour - who own the licensing rights to the Ryder Cup when it is staged in Europe - concerned only the men’s side of the professional game, which is why Challenge Tours and the return of a Staysure tournament from 2020 up to 2026 was included an integral part of the deal, but surely the optics and, if you will, the whole PC side of things, of ignoring the women’s professional game is just plain wrong.

Someone had their eye off the ball.

The last time a Ladies Irish Open tournament took place was back in 2012 at Killeen Castle, part of the package deal that brought the Solheim Cup to the same venue. Catriona Matthew, who is actually the European captain for this year's staging of that biennial match at Gleneagles later this year, won on that occasion and added her name to a list of high-profile winners that also included Suzanne Pettersen, Laura Davies and Sophie Gustafson, who was actually a specialist in these parts and won on no fewer than four occasions.

Surely when all of the focus was on securing the Ryder Cup someone somewhere should have looked at the bigger picture and seen that neglecting the women’s side of the professional game was akin to an own goal?

Ironically, this continued neglect of a Ladies Irish Open comes at a time when Irish players are actually impacting on the global stage, with Leona Maguire on her way towards securing a full LPGA Tour card next season through the pathway that is the Symetra Tour, and Stephanie Meadow already on that LPGA Tour.

In some contrast, some vision has been demonstrated by those behind the upcoming ISPS Handa World Invitational at Galgorm Castle in just over a fortnight’s time, where men (players on the Challenge Tour) and women will play separate tournaments on the same courses (Galgorm and Masserenne) for equal prizemoney. Maguire, Meadow and indeed Matthew will be among those playing.

Going forward, though, somebody needs to right a wrong and ensure that there is fair play for the women’s professional side of the game in promoting tournaments and that the Ladies Irish Open is revived. As it stands, the optics are all wrong.