Search for Irish Open sponsor continues to draw a blank

LITTLE progress is reported in the search for a sponsor prepared to maintain the status and reputation of the Irish Open.

Murray Consultants, the event managers of the championship, have been trying to find a successor for the event ever since Murphys pulled out earlier this year but so far with limited success.

The European Tour, once again the owners of the Irish Open title, have also been working in this direction along with other promotional companies.

Tournament director David Linnane admitted last night they were far from finalising a deal although a few companies had expressed a keen interest and one had actually put an offer on the table. For now though, it seems that all sides are holding out in the hope of attracting as much financial support as possible.

Time may well be running out for several reasons, not least coming to an arrangement with the host club which understandably would require a great deal of time to get their course into the desired condition.

Furthermore, the Tour are usually able to announce their full schedule for the following year early in November. It has already been decided that the Irish Open should there be one will move from its customary date in the last week of June to one of the three weeks immediately after the Open Championship. These slots were filled this year by the Dutch Open, the Scandinavian Masters and the Wales Open.

Interestingly, all three boasted a larger prize fund than the Irish Open. The Wales Open has already been moved to a June date and the Dutch and Scandinavians wish to stay where they are. That, in turn, may leave the Irish taking over from the Welsh on the week immediately before the US PGA Championship. There are obvious drawbacks with such an arrangement and might make the task of coming up with a sponsor all the more difficult.

Meanwhile, a number of Irish golfers, including South of Ireland champion Colm Moriarty and two of his Irish international team-mates Padraig Dooley of Cork and Andrew McCormick of Scrabo, have entered for stage one of the European Tour qualifying school taking place at five venues over the next four days.

Other amateurs hoping to make their way through to the final qualifier in the north of Spain in November include Limerick's Tim Rice and Danny Sugrue of Killarney. Much interest will centre on the progress of 2001 British Amateur champion Michael Hoey, who began his professional career in impressive fashion but of whom very little has been heard recently.

Carden Park: Gary Cullen, Padraig Dooley, Michael Hoey, Colm Moriarty, Graham Spring, Leslie Walker.

Chart Hills: Eoin Feely, Tim Rice, Barry Templeton, Gavin McNeill.

Five Lakes: Chris Devlin, Paddy Gribben, John Kelly, Danny Sugrue, Finbarr Madden.

Wynyard Club: Stephen Browne, Conor Mallon, Andrew McCormick, Ciaran McMonagle.

Moliets: Conor Young.

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