Ballyliffin has been waiting for the green light to host the 2018 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open for nearly a year and Paul McGinley reckons it will be a “worthy” venue if it gets the nod this week.
The Dubliner, 48, has close ties with Donegal, which is his parents’ home county.
While some fear that its remote location on the Inish-owen peninsula will lead to smaller crowds than the sellouts the event has drawn at Portrush and this week at Portstewart, the 2014 Ryder Cup captain has no fears.
“Ballyliffin? It would be huge,” said McGinley. “Ballyliffin is great. Another extreme location that is not densely populated and I am sure there will be a sellout crowd, just like there will be here this week.
“It’s certainly a golf course that would be very worthy of an Irish Open again. And it’s certainly capable of holding a tournament this size.”
McGinley also loves Portstewart’s Strand Course where the emphasis will be on driving accuracy and pinpoint short iron play rather than big hitting.
“I really like it,” he said. “It’s tight and it won’t be rewarding to the big hitters, as we saw at the US Open. You have to be straight rather than long and hopefully, the wind blows a bit more than it is at the moment.”
One thing the Irish Open lacks this week is an Irish amateur, with the GUI opting not to send one or two players from down the pecking order as the leading amateurs will be away in Austria next week for the European Amateur Team Championship.
As a member of the tournament committee, McGinley insisted that amateurs will be welcome in the Irish Open, even if it is now a $7m Rolex Series event.
He emphasised that the days of half a dozen amateurs making the field are over and that if one or two players tee up in the future, they must be outstanding.
“It is nice to have amateurs in the field whether it be the Open Championship or the Irish Open or the British Masters,” said McGinley.
“It is important to have a couple, but it is very important not to have too many.
“I’d be of the view that one or two is plenty. An outstanding one or two. Outstanding! The days of six amateurs are gone.”
McGinley attended last week’s Irish Amateur Boys Championship at Castletroy and said he was blown away by the standard and the professionalism of the GUI setup as he watched his 15-year old son Killian make the cut in his first championship appearance. “He did great. He is two years under the age group so to make the cut in his first ever championship was a big achievement.
“He has played in the Surrey Boys, but that’s nothing compared to that. I was taken aback by the professionalism of it, the way it was run, the electronic scoreboard, the pin sheets, the standard of the course, 50 volunteers from Castletroy, ProV1s on the range.”
McGinley Jr is about to turn 16 and his father is keen to have him compete in more Irish events next year, believing success on the domestic circuit is key.
Impressed by Mark Power’s victory — the Kilkenny star holed a wedge on the third play-off hole to retain his title — McGinley advice to all Irish amateurs is to take a leaf out of Pádraig Harrington’s books and dominate at home.
“I would give Mark the same advice I give all the other lads,” he said. “Unless you dominate the amateur scene in Ireland, it is too difficult to try to be successful as a pro, The stats are there to prove it. Everybody who has dominated on Tour has dominated the Irish amateur scene.
“One of the things I am disappointed with is that the top players don’t play the Irish championships the way we did in our day and I think they are losing out as a consequence.
“It is OK travelling and going to England to play in those tournaments. But as Pádraig says, winning a couple of Scratch Cups is more important than going and finishing 20th or 10th in the Lytham Trophy.”
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