THE Northern Ireland Open will return to Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort in September – helping to kickstart tourism in Country Antrim.
The Challenge Tour event will take place from September 3-6 – with support from The R&A – and offer a €200,000 prize fund.
It will be the first of two back-to-back events on the island of Ireland forming a key part of the European Challenge Tour’s 2020 Road to Mallorca schedule.
The Irish Challenge follows on September 10-13 at a venue still to be confirmed by the European Challenge Tour.
The announcement follows the overall Challenge Tour strategy for the reshaped 2020 season of playing events in regional clusters where possible.
The tournament will be backed by The R&A COVID-19 Support Fund – a £7million package to help golf deal with the impact of the global pandemic.
The R&A’s Fund is providing an additional £300,000 in support of the Challenge Tour in 2020 on top of its existing annual grant.
The Northern Ireland Open will be subject to stringent safety and medical protocols set out in the Challenge Tour’s comprehensive Health Strategy.
It will proceed subject to Government and health guidelines at the time of the event.
Season reshaped by pandemic
CHALLENGE Tour head Jamie Hodges said: “We are delighted to be able to add the Northern Ireland Open to the 2020 schedule as we continue to reshape the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The R&A is dedicated to supporting golf and its additional support this year has been crucial in helping us to stage this event.
“Our thanks also go to Galgorm Castle, a venue that our members know well, and always enjoy playing, and to Tourism Northern Ireland and Mid & East Antrim Borough Council for their valued support.
“While there will be no formal graduation to the European Tour this year, adding events like this to the Road to Mallorca will provide playing opportunities and experience for the stars of the future.
“It is hugely important for our members in the current circumstances.”
Kevin Barker, The R&A’s director of Golf Development, said: “We are pleased to be able to support the Challenge Tour in running this event, and to help to provide the players with another opportunity to compete in what has been such a difficult period for them.
“Through The R&A Support Fund we are trying to provide assistance at all levels of the game from grassroots through elite amateur golf, and on to emerging professionals.
“Following the huge success of The Open at Royal Portrush last year, we are also excited to see this important championship being played at Galgorm Castle, another of Northern Ireland’s outstanding venues.”
Galgorm Castle Estate a ‘premier destination’
THE parkland Championship Course is nestled in the heart of the 220-acre Galgorm Castle Estate.
It is part of Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort – Northern Ireland’s premier luxury hotel and spa destination.
It is an established venue on the Challenge Tour, having hosted events every season since 2013.
Galgorm Castle managing director Gary Henry said: “We are delighted golf is returning to Galgorm Castle and Northern Ireland.
“The Northern Ireland Open is a real positive for the area. We are operating within stringent government guidelines for an event that will help kickstart the tourism economy and generate significant bed nights and spend by bringing players, staff and media to the local area.
“TV coverage of the event will enhance the message that Mid & East Antrim and Northern Ireland is open for business.”
Leanne Rice, Tourism NI’s marketing manager, said: “We are delighted to support the Northern Ireland Open this year.
“Bringing a European Challenge Tour event to Northern Ireland is a fantastic opportunity for our economy and tourism industry as it starts to recover.
“The tournament will deliver significant economic benefits while providing international exposure for Northern Ireland as a premium golf destination.
“Our golf clubs and wider sector have been significantly affected by the pandemic and we are delighted that participants will get to enjoy our fantastic golf product, with the appropriate health and safety guidelines in place.”
Mayor backs bid to kick start tourism sector
MID and East Antrim Mayor councillor Peter Johnston said: “I am delighted to give my support to the Northern Ireland Open in the world-class surroundings of Galgorm.
“An event as prestigious as the Northern Ireland Open is a major asset for the area at any time. But particularly so this year in terms of helping our tourism and hospitality sectors to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The council is leading on a major tourism campaign to support our local sector, called #RediscoverMEA, and the Northern Ireland Open aligns perfectly with that.”
Following the suspension of the season in February, the Challenge Tour re-started with the first of two dual ranking events in Austria last week – the Austrian Open – won by Scotland’s Marc Warren – followed by this week’s Euram Bank Open.
•The Northern Ireland Open is the next scheduled event from September 3-6, with details of further events from September through to the end of the season to be confirmed in due course.
The Challenge Tour draws on relationships with golf federations and PGAs around the world to create an international schedule for golf professionals from across the globe.
It gives players from developing golfing nations the opportunity to test their skills among some of the most talented up-and-coming stars.