Irish golf makes its pitch to rich American market

THE PGA Show in Orlando, USA, in January will attract a large army of Irish golfing representatives eagerly promoting the attractions of Ireland’s top courses to a captive audience.

This is the biggest golf show on the calendar and Ireland's marketing executives will be reaching out to a global audience to attract overseas visitors to the many championship courses in this country.

Kate McCann is Director of Marketing for golf at Mount Juliet and Fota Island and she will spend ten days in Orlando.

She said: "This is biggest golf show I've ever seen, it is huge. It's merchandising mainly but the travel side of it has increased over the last ten years. It is one mile from one end of the show to the other and all of it indoors. It is unreal, unbelievable. Clubs, clothes, all the golf equipment you could imagine is on display and they will have a number of the tour pros making personal appearances.

"Nike will have a massive stand the size of your average clubhouse multiplied several times over. I doubt if Tiger will appear but Nicklaus has appeared at it, so has Player and Els, they make half-hour or an hour appearances on the stand of their sponsor."

Golfing holidays continue to be a growth business in Ireland and while the September 11 atrocity put a check on American business for a period, the USA represents a lucrative market for Ireland's top courses and their management teams. It helps, of course, if the course you are promoting has been chosen for a championship event and Ms McCann will visit Orlando boosted by the successful promotion of the Amex Classic at Mount Juliet in September and the Irish Open at Fota in June. Both events were widely seen on TV.

She said: "I'll be on a stand with Mount Juliet/Fota as the sign. I'll have photos of both courses on show. Our promotion will be part of the Ireland group at the show.

"This month (December) the International Golf Tour Operators put on their annual show in France and again the Irish presence will be strong. The venue for this event is changed every year last year it was held in Africa and the previous year in the USA.

All the professionals do their buying at the PGA Show and professional golfers bring groups on trips regularly, especially in the States. The club pro travels with the groups so it is a great source of business. If you get the pro recommending your course it is all positive."

SWING, the organisation promoting golf in the South West of Ireland, were complimented by Ms McCann for their work in this area.

She said: "The objective is to make a presentation to the members of the clubs. SWING do it very successfully, Paddy O'Looney and his group in South West Ireland Golf are a very successful marketing group."

They started with Ballybunion, Tralee and they now have Killarney, Lahinch, Waterville, Dooks and now Fota and the Old Head are joining."

Ms McCann had a winning record while playing for Ireland from 1984 to 1986 out of her home club at Headford, Kells. She has been associated with the Mount Juliet Club since its opening in 1991 and spoke of the growing popularity of this and the sister course at Fota in Cork through TV coverage of the championship events. The Amex at Mount Juliet, which attracted the Ryder Cup players, was especially big in this regard and she said: "The phones and e-mails have been hopping, absolutely hopping. For weeks after the tournament business was non-stop with golf reservations and bookings for the whole package, hotel included.

"We picked up in one week alone 1,000 rounds for the coming weeks which is a lot of business in winter time.

It was a phenomenal success. Side by side with the international business, is the Irish response to a number of special winter offers from now until March 31, excluding the Christmas period, December 24 January 4.

There is also a special offer for Fota of 45 from Monday to Thursday for tee off times before 9.30 am until December 19. Said Ms McCann: "We have a booking for Christmas for Mount Juliet for a group from Greece, there's an exotic one for you. They're coming for five days, ten people: the alternative Christmas in Ireland.

The Irish Open at Fota was a major success but it would not have had the same world-wide coverage as American Express. It was just broadcast locally, but because it got on the golf channel many people became aware of it and thought they would like to play it. Our business at Fota showed the benefits of that."

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