LAHINCH did not launch an official independent bid to host the Irish Open next year, it can be confirmed, with the revelation that the North Clare links course was singled out by Paul McGinley and European Tour officials as a potential location for the multi-million euro event.
Speaking to The Clare Echo, General Manager at Lahinch Golf Club Paddy Keane said he was thrilled that the course will host the prestigious event next July, adding that it was recognition of the course’s esteemed standing in world golf. Explaining that much of the finer details are yet to be established, Mr Keane said that a community effort will be made to create a memorable event on our shores.
“We’re delighted and thrilled to have been asked to host next year, especially with Paul McGinley as host as he has a long association with the club, and also with Royal Portrush hosting the British Open, it’s going to be a special year for golf in Ireland. The plan starts in earnest now. It’ll be a moveable feast, the planning will occur over next few months and it will start coming together towards the end of summer.
“We have to meet with European Tour, the local authority, fire services, gardai and the HSE on a more formal footing to make sure we have a safe and accessible event and a great festival of golf in the first week of July next year.
Explaining the background as to how Lahinch secured hosting rights to the 2019 event, Mr Keane continued: “Paul McGinely is a longtime friend of Lahinch Golf Club; he was a caddy for his dad as a teen on the course and hit his first sub-par round in the Castle Course as a teen. He won the South of Ireland here.
“So the European Tour and Paul McGinley made contact to see if we’d be interested. We didn’t approach them, they approached us – it was an acknowledgement of how the course is held across Ireland, Europe and world golf. The club council agreed to discuss the possibility. The European Tour visited in March and we discussed it in depth at our AGM on Good Friday and our members were in vast support, and here we are.”
While club members will be working hard behind the scenes over the next 12 months, the local community will also be embraced in an effort to help the entire area benefit from the event. “Obviously Lahinch Golf Club will have a steering committee focussed on Irish Open 2019 and we will have involvement within the local community, as it will have to be a community effort. It’s about embracing our community. The Golf Club and village have been intertwined since it was established at the Post Office, originally the site of Sharry’s Hotel. It’s important local people are involved.”
While admitting that members will be inconvenienced by the course’s closure in the weeks leading up to the event, Mr Keane insisted the lasting advantages will be felt community-wide. “The course will be closed for a few weeks in advance for final preparations. There will be restrictions on members. That’s one of the disadvantages, but the benefits far outweigh the negatives. The tournament will be broadcast coast to coast in the US and across Europe and Asia.” “It’s appropriate that members be facilitated,” he insisted, adding that all logistics such as access to the clubhouse and players pavilion have yet to be decided.