McGinley, the 2019 tournament host, yesterday helped announce the European Tour’s decision for next year’s venue, ensuring Lahinch’s Old Course will be the centre of attention next July when The Open Championship will be staged at Royal Portrush a fortnight later.
Europe’s Ryder Cup-winning captain of 2014 assumes the hosting role of the prestigious Rolex Series tournament after original host Rory McIlroy steps aside after four years this July to rotate the duties among Ireland’s golfing legends Pádraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell, and McGinley.
With the Dubliner first in the hotseat after McIlroy and his Rory Foundation hosts this year’s tournament at Ballyliffin from July 5-8, he will have had a considerable input along with title sponsors Dubai Duty Free in bringing the Irish Open to the revered west Munster links and Lahinch general manager Paddy Keane said the club was only too pleased to be staging the event in 14 months for a golfer with a lifetime of memories there.
“We’re thrilled and delighted,” Keane told the Irish Examiner following yesterday’s European Tour announcement.
“Paul’s introduction to Lahinch was caddying for his father (Mick) in the South of Ireland, he broke 80 for the first time on the Castle Course here. Then he came and played himself in the South and won it in 1991. That got him his place in the Walker Cup and that ultimately gave him the opportunity to turn pro.”
It was a return visit to Lahinch last year that Keane believes put the Old Course, whose architects since 1894 have included Old Tom Morris, Alister MacKenzie, and Martin Hawtree, firmly in McGinley’s thoughts when he was asked to consider possible host venues for the Irish Open.
“He came back for our 125th-anniversary celebrations last year when we hosted a day for our past South of Ireland champions.
That tournament is very close to our heart and very important to our culture and tradition. He did a question and answer session with around 100 of our junior members, which was a wonderful, funny occasion and he really enjoyed it.
“Then he was our guest of honour and speaker at a dinner that evening and I think he was a bit taken aback by how much the heritage and tradition of golf remains here and what we’ve done and the investment of time, effort, and finance we’ve put back into the club, particularly with the renovations around the millennium and again over the past four or five years.
“So when he was asked to host it I’m sure he was probably thinking where he would like to see it and I know as a good friend he probably wanted to come here.
“We’re delighted that we’ve been chosen and even more excited about working with Paul because he’s a super guy, a great person, very warm, very open to ideas and clear about he manages things.
“We’re very much looking forward to working with him over the next 14 months.”
Making the announcement on the European Tour website yesterday McGinley said: “Lahinch is one of Ireland’s truly iconic links golf courses and I am delighted to be taking the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open there.
“Embedded in the history of Irish amateur golf, as well as in the hearts of our many international visitors, it now deservedly gets the opportunity to showcase itself on the world stage.”
Aware that staging the Irish Open will mean blanket television coverage of the famous links around the golfing world Keane added: “So good times ahead and plenty of hard work but the next few days is about enjoying it.
“Next week is about sitting down with the local authorities and planning for 14 months’ time.
“It is Ballyliffin’s year, we’re conscious of that, but once the Irish Open finishes up there, we’ll obviously ramp things up.”