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 28-31 while, in a first for Northern Ireland, the tournament will be staged at the Lough Erne resort in Fermanagh in 2017.
Making the announcement at Royal County Down Golf Club, First Minister the Rt. Hon. Peter D Robinson, MLA said: “When Northern Ireland hosted the 2012 Irish Open we staged an incredibly successful event, which not only exceeded our own expectations but it also became the first European Tour event in history to sell out.
“More than 130,000 spectators travelled to the north coast to see the world’s golfing elite in action and the feel-good factor that it generated created a huge sense of civic pride. I have no doubt that next year Royal County Down will be equally successful.
“In addition to having three major golfing champions, Northern Ireland is home to arguably the best concentration of great golf courses in the world. With the Irish Open secured for 2015 and 2017, we look forward to building on the legacy of events such as the Irish Open in Royal Portrush in 2012, last year’s highly successful G8 Summit and the World Police and Fire Games.”
The deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: “The 2015 Irish Open being staged at Royal County Down and 2017 Irish Open at the Lough Erne Golf course is tremendous news not just for golf fans but for all of us.
“Securing the 2015 and 2017 competitions will be a significant boost for the tourism industry and wider economy. The success of local golfers on the international stage offers us the perfect platform to promote the north of Ireland.
“I thank the European Tour for their vote of confidence. High profile sporting events like the Irish Open generates global exposure and the Executive is determined to play its part in making the events a resounding success. The Executive supported Royal Portrush in 2012 which had record breaking attendances and I am confident the 2015 and 2017 competitions will be just as successful.”
Next year will see Northern Ireland host the Irish Open for only the second time in the last 60 years and it will be the first time in 76 years that the event has been played at the world famous links in Newcastle.
Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster added: “The positive images beamed across the globe during coverage of the 2012 Irish Open at Royal Portrush Golf Club brought with them immeasurable positive PR for our tourism product. We know Northern Ireland is a world class golfing destination and a place that should be on every golfer’s ‘must play’ list. Events like the Irish Open help us to deliver that message on the international stage.
“Royal County Down is a spectacular course and the spectacular scenery around the coast will provide a wonderful backdrop for coverage of next year’s Irish Open.”
Arlene Foster added: “I very much welcome the European Tour’s decision to stage the Irish Open at Lough Erne in three years’ time. Having already played host to the some of the world’s most powerful leaders during the G8 summit last year, it will now host some of the world’s greatest golfers.”
“Northern Ireland is establishing a worldwide reputation as the home of great events and I look forward to the Irish Open being part of that in 2015 and 2017.”
SDLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has welcomed news that the Irish Open golf tournament will once again come north in 2015 as Royal County Down is announced as the host club.
Speaking after the announcement was made today, Ms Ritchie said: “This is wonderful news for Newcastle, South Down and the wider Mourne community. After the success of the Irish Open at Royal Portrush, I am delighted that organisers have announced that the tournament will once again be coming North, this time to Royal County Down.
“This is a great show of confidence from the European Tour in South Down. Not only do we have the golfing facilities and heritage, we also have fantastic businesses which are capable of providing the needed infrastructure to host such a historic competition.
“The tournament will open new opportunities for South Down, bringing with it significant investment. As part of the package, I campaigned with local businesses for a ticket system that will allow those attending the competition to leave and return to the competition during the day, thereby ensuring that the purchasing power of the spectators is spread to its full potential in the local economy. I received confirmation today that this open ticket system will be in place for the Irish Open in Newcastle in 2015.
“This is a great boost for the area and we’re all looking forward to welcoming some of the world’s best golfers to the beautiful Mourne area as they prepare to tee off in 2015.”
Alliance Down Councillor Patrick Clarke has welcomed the confirmation today that the Irish Open will be officially taking place at the Royal County Down Golf Club. Newcastle Cllr Patrick Clarke said: “This is fantastic news that such a prestigious sporting event will be coming to Newcastle. It is a great location for this tournament and I hope that the likes of Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell will be taking part at Royal County Down.”
“This event will bring a large number of spectators to the area and will be a big boost to local businesses. It is more good news for golf in Northern Ireland. Following the success of Royal Portrush when they hosted the 2012 Irish Open, I hope that another successful Irish Open will convince organisers that Northern Ireland can host the Open Championship.
“Golfers from Northern Ireland have been very successful in the past few years and I hope a local competitor will win this event next year. Newcastle and Royal County Down Golf Club are ideal locations to host the Irish Open in 2015 and I have no doubt this world class golf event will attract many visitors and tourists to the beautiful seaside town.”
“This will give this part of County Down a major tourism boost and I am confident that the many local businesses particularly in the hospitality sector will be gearing up for this major event arriving in 2015.”
Local Newcastle SDLP Councillor Laura Devlin has also welcomed the European Tour confirmation that he Royal County Down will host the Irish Open in 2015.
Cllr Devlin said: “I was very pleased to be deputising for Cllr Maria McCarthy, Chairman of Down Council when the European Tour made the official announcement today in Newcastle.
“This is a fantastic day – not only for Newcastle but for the entire District. Where better to showcase Down District, than where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.
“Today’s announcement is an opportunity to create a lasting legacy of golf, sport and wellbeing within our premium tourist town. It will also enhance our visitor numbers and provide a platform for further events of this nature and scale.
“The Irish Open will provide a welcome boost to businesses in the local hospitality trade, which in the current climate is extremely welcome.
“As a local Councillor for Newcastle, I am looking forward to welcoming visitors to our town, and putting Newcastle firmly on the map in terms of holiday destinations.”
South Down MLA Seán Rogers has joined in the overwhelming excitement expressed by many following the formal announcement that the prestigious Royal County Down golf course will be used to host the 2015 Irish Open.
Mr Rogers, whose Constituency Office is just a shot and a putt away from the course said: “There is great excitement amongst people in the town, with much discussion around the possible golfing celebrities we are likely to bump into during the event. Already local businesses are turning their minds to applying a golfing theme to their individual stores whilst local representatives and officials are studying every detail to ensure everything from parking management to washed pavements is in check”.
The South Down MLA added, “There is no doubt this significant event will bring a tremendous boost to the local economy and tribute must be paid to the management and staff at the Royal County Down amongst others who have played a significant role in bringing the event to our doorstep”.
“This event has really captured the imagination of locals in Newcastle, with golfers and non golfers alike, equally looking forward to the spectacle”.