Home hero Shane Lowry holds the key to the O’Meara Course at Carton House beating off serious competition to host next year’s Irish Open.
The two-time European Tour winner, who has a home overlooking the spectacularly beautiful sister track to the tough Montgomerie Course, will tee it up with a European Tour official later this summer.
That could be enough to persuade the Tour to take the event to the more compact and tree-lined O’Meara layout and scupper offers from rival resorts around the country.
“Let’s just say Carton House haven’t done themselves any harm with the way they hosted the event,” said the European Tour’s James Finnigan, commercial director for the Irish Open. “I intend to play the O’Meara Course, maybe with Shane Lowry at some point in the near future and get his feedback on it.
“We can see how we could frame it very nicely because there is a wonderful loop of holes there from the 14th to the 16th with wonderful waterfall backdrop.
“We just need to test the new first and 18th holes that will be ready for play soon. I am a one-handicap golfer but if a touring pro like Shane Lowry says the O’Meara Course is good enough, then that could work for the European Tour.”
Finnigan declared last week’s Irish Open a success and hopes it will still break even despite incurring some weekend losses after headline acts Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Pádraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley all missed the cut.
While last year’s event in Portrush generated a profit of just under £1m, Finnigan suggested that the event does not necessarily need a title sponsor, providing he succeeds in increasing the level of investment by a portfolio of 18 official sponsors.
“Everyone seems to think that this is a struggling event,” Finnigan said yesterday. “In fact, it is a very successful championship.
“If Pádraig and Darren and Rory, Paul and Graeme had all been up there, it would have been a fairytale.”
The Mallaghan family, owners of Carton House, are keen to host the event again and while the European Tour are believed to be committed to returning to Royal Portrush in 2015, a decision on next year’s venue has yet to be made.
“I have had plenty of venues contact me, which is why Conor Mallaghan is so keen, because his is well aware of the opportunity,” Finnigan said.
The European Tour were pleased with the overall attendance of 81,379 for the four tournament days but will wait for formal feedback from the sponsors and leading players before making a decision on 2014.
With resorts such as Fota Island, The K Club and Lough Erne mentioned in reports, Finnigan added: “I am not going to rush to take any decisions.”
The €1.25m investment from Fáilte Ireland appears secure given the presence of Taoiseach Enda Kenny on Sunday. However, while at least two potential title sponsors watched the action on site, the European Tour believe they can still get by without one.
“The Irish Open doesn’t have to have a title sponsor,” said Finnigan. “We get €1.25m from the government and we would love to have more. But the fact of the matter is that the Taoiseach came down yesterday and showed his support for the event. He is fully committed to the event, which is great news for the Tour.”
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