The European Tour yesterday released their official schedule for the 2012 campaign with the Irish flagship tournament pencilled in for June 28th to July 1st.
Though no venue has been confirmed, Carton House is understood to be the sole runner in the field to host the event.
Euro Tour chief George O’Grady has been working hard on putting together what he describes as “an exciting new package” that will see the championship return to the greater Dublin area for the first time since 2003.
While O’Grady admits Killarney proved an outstanding venue for the past two years, he has come to the conclusion that to make the event commercially viable, it must be staged as close to the capital city as possible.
3’s withdrawal after the second of a three year commitment meant there was no sponsor this year with the prize fund of €1.5m and a similar amount in organisational expense coming from Fáilte Ireland and the Tour itself.
O’Grady stresses that such a situation couldn’t continue indefinitely, all the more so because several other tournaments, including the Scottish Open which has lost the support of Barclays Bank, is also in need of similar assistance. It remains to be seen whether the “exciting package” he has referred to includes a new sponsor and this may be revealed today with the confirmation of Carton House as the venue.
Carton is one of a number of privately owned clubs that injected considerable amounts of their own resources into the event throughout the 1990s and into the new millennium. The trend began with the first of three tournaments at Mount Juliet in 1993, the last year of the sponsorship by tobacco company PJ Carroll.
They were followed from 1994 to 2002 by Murphys Brewery with Druids Glen as hosts for four years. Ballybunion broke the chain of private club sponsorship in 2000 before Fota Island took over in 2001 and 2002.
Murphys withdrew at that point and Nissan Ireland brought the event to Portmarnock and Baltray respectively in ‘03 and ‘04. They moved to Carton for the following two years before the absence of a sponsor in ‘07 and ‘08 led to Tom Kane of Adare Manor Golf Hotel and Country Club hosting the event titled simply as “The Irish Open”.
It seemed as if the championship was really on its way back to its former stature when the prize money jumped to €3m on 3’s arrival in ‘08 and even if the weather at Baltray was atrocious, the occasion coincided with a magnificent victory for Irish amateur Shane Lowry. 3 were again at the helm at Killarney in 2010 before their shock departure a year ahead of schedule left a gap which has yet to be filled.
It can be safely assumed that Carton will once again be making a financial contribution that will help to make the 2012 championship more viable.
The Mallaghan family have developed the Maynooth estate into a stunning resort highlighted by two outstanding golf courses designed by Colin Montgomerie and Mark O’Meara and a 5 star hotel and leisure complex. The Golfing Union of Ireland has also set up their headquarters there along with a state of the art golfing practice area.
Welshman Stephen Dodd won the first of the two Irish Opens at Carton in 2005 after a play-off with David Howell while Thomas Bjorn pipped Darren Clarke in a tight finish twelve months later when the finish was held over until Monday morning because of terrible weather conditions.