The enormity of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open gave the European Tour the courage to take the €7m Rolex Series extravaganza to Ballyliffin from July 5-8 next year.
At least that’s the view of the club’s hard-working general manager, John Farren, who expects the event to generate €100m for the Donegal economy next year alone, with the long-term spin-off “immeasurable”.
“The people are a big part of it and the ambition and grá they have for the place, given the club’s importance to the local economy,” said Farren.
“But getting it over the line was probably the reinvigoration of the Irish Open through Rory (McIlroy). That gave the Tour the confidence to bring the event to somewhere like Ballyliffin.”
For course designer Pat Ruddy, who built the stunning Glashedy Links that will host McIlroy and the best players in the world two weeks before The Open at Carnoustie next July, the key to the deal is the pride and passion of the local community on the windswept Inishowen peninsula.
Ruddy said: “They have made Ballyliffin the centre of the universe. The community spirit is wonderful.
“There’s Packie Farren, Patsy Doherty, people like that. There are about ten men there who are the whirlwind of pride in place.
“You go to other villages in similar locations around the country and the roofs are off the houses. This place is building hotels.”
Farren reckons the Irish Open will be worth at least €100m to the local economy next year alone, with the long-term spin-off incalculable as the nine courses that comprise the North & West Coast Links group market themselves around the world.
“It’s one of the premier golf events in the world,” he said. “It’s going into 420m homes. The TV coverage is phenomenal.
“The opportunity to showcase not just Ballyliffin but Donegal and Derry and the region is invaluable to us.”
European Tour boss Keith Pelley revealed McIlroy was key to the decision to go to what he called a “stunning” venue but refused to guarantee that they will remain on a links course in 2019 or that they won’t swap dates with the Scottish Open in two years’ time.
The event now appears certain to head south from 2019, when Royal Portrush hosts The Open.
But while venues like Co Sligo are being mentioned as possible venues, there are no cast-iron guarantees it will be played on a links.
Pelley said: “Right now the links strategy seems to make a lot of sense because it gives our players the best opportunity to prepare for The Open Championship.
“Could it ever revert back? Could we play on a parkland course? Absolutely.
“And as I said, it is a collaborative decision that we make with all of our partners.”
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