New sponsors ISPS a huge boost to Irish Seniors Open at Carton House

JUST when it appeared the Irish Seniors Open would fall by the wayside after the withdrawal of AIB’s long-standing sponsorship, support for the event at Carton House next weekend came from an unusual quarter.

The new title sponsor for 2010 is the International Sports Promotion Society (ISPS) and its Chairman Dr Haruhisa Handa, a body that supports several events across the European Senior Tour in a collaboration to raise the awareness of the International Blind Golf Association.

“Having supported European Senior Tour events in Brunei, Thailand and Stapleford Park, this is the fourth tournament ISPS is sponsoring this year,” said Dr Handa. “I am delighted that our three ISPS ambassadors, Sandy Lyle, Sam Torrance and Ian Woosnam, will all be at Carton House to compete for the title and endorse the work of the ISPS. The Handa Irish Senior Open will continue to provide an opportunity for the ISPS to promote golf to a diverse audience and raise awareness for blind golf.

“We believe the game should be accessible to as many people as possible and through our partnership with the International Blind Golf Association (IBGA) we hope that this format of the sport will continue to grow.”

It is a worthy cause and the hope is that the championship (which also benefits from support by Fáilte Ireland) will help advance the cause of blind golfers. Whether staging the event on the Montgomerie Course at Carton House will be seen as wise, however, is another matter given that this is a very, very long track with the deep, mean bunkers. Unless the over 50s – and in several cases, over 60s – play from forward tees, a lot will struggle and some, I predict, will post embarrassingly high scores.

Woosnam, who has enjoyed some of the best moments of his career in this country, winning back-to-back Irish Open titles in 1988 and 1989 before leading Europe to Ryder Cup glory at The K Club in 2006, added the Irish Seniors Open crown to that impressive list at Ballybunion last year. On a highly exciting final afternoon, Woosie overturned a six-shots deficit going into the final round to join American Bob Boyd in a play-off, eventually capturing the title on the third extra hole. Woosnam is targeting a victory at Carton House as he attempts to reclaim the John Jacobs Trophy he won as leading Senior Tour player in his rookie season in 2008.

“I played in the Irish Open on the regular Tour on both of the occasions it was hosted at Carton House – in 2005 and 2006 – and it will be a tough test for us, just as Ballybunion was last year. My other two Senior Tour titles were in Poland and Russia and unfortunately I did not have the chance to defend them so this is the first time I will play a Senior Tour event as a defending champion.”

The only home winner since the tournament was first played at St Margarets in 1997 was Clareman Joe McDermott at Woodbrook 12 months later. Our leading contenders this week are Des Smyth and Eamonn Darcy while another former Ryder Cup star, Christy O’Connor Junior, makes a rare competitive appearance. Denis O’Sullivan hopes for a big finish while Waterville’s Liam Higgins and Ulster men Peter O’Hagan and Eddie Polland will also be teeing it up in a tournament offering €250,000 in prize money with €40,000 going to the winner.

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