Lough Erne owners fume over Irish Open call

The owners of the five-star Lough Erne Resort last night said they “extremely disappointed” at the European Tour’s decision not to host the 2017 Irish Open at the Fermanagh resort.

The course, designed to critical acclaim by Nick Faldo, had been announced as the 2017 venue in April 2014 when the European Tour decided to take last year’s event to Royal County Down.

At the time it was suggested it was the start of a north-south rotation for the Irish Open and the K Club in Co Kildare will host this year’s tournament this May 19-22 as scheduled.

The 2017 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open looks set to remain in Northern Ireland with the links at Portstewart already suggested as the frontrunner.

However, European Tour officials will make no further comment on the issue until after this year’s visit to the K Club, when newly-minted Masters champion Danny Willett will add further star power to the tournament in addition to Ireland’s homegrown major winners.

A statement issued yesterday read: “The European Tour can today confirm that the 2017 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, Hosted by the Rory Foundation will not take place at the Lough Erne Resort.”

The decision has not gone down well with Mark Ward and Jeff Mahan, the American owners of the Lough Erne Resort. They released a statement to to Impartial Reporter.com, outlining their disappointment.

“From the day we acquired the Resort, we have been excited and committed to hosting the event, and we have never waivered from that commitment. We have in fact continued to make additional investments in the course and the Resort facilities, both of which are in superior condition to when the 2014 announcement was made,” the statement read.

“But over the last several months, senior tour officials began telling us that European Tour management was considering a ‘traditional links course strategy’ for future Irish Opens, and because of that new strategy there had been indications that the 2017 date at Lough Erne might be in jeopardy.

“From the beginning of those conversations, we have remained steadfast in our position not to accept this change from the Tour, and we have spent the last few months trying to work with Tour officials at the highest level to persuade them to keep their commitment to Lough Erne Resort and the region.

“However, despite our willingness to work with the Tour in every way to convince them to maintain their commitment, they have made the decision to change the venue to a traditional links course in 2017 and at this point we have no choice but to accept it.”

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said it is possible the venue will host the Irish Open at some point in the future.

He said: “While the 2017 Irish Open will not be staged at Lough Erne, the European Tour looks forward to working with the new ownership consortium, and I am confident that the Lough Erne Resort will host an event with the European Tour in the future.”

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