Business Plus

Revived Irish Open Tees Up Opportunit­ies

With big crowds expected and worldwide TV coverage, the resurgent tournament is a vital tool in attracting post-pandemic tourism back to the country

- Rob Hartnett is the founder of Sport for Business, a publishing, events and networking business at the heart of the commercial world of Irish sport. Visit sportforbu­ for daily news and analysis.

The Irish Open is one of European Golf ’s jewels. That is not only because of its appeal to Major winners like Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, and Padraig Harrington, but also because of all the events on the European Tour it is the one that consistent­ly attracts a large attendance.

On many Tour competitio­ns, players can find it difficult to be motivated, when green spectators consist of their playing partner, caddies and a scattering of fans. In Ireland, the tournament sells out, there is never any trouble finding marshals from local clubs, and the sense of place on the Irish sporting landscape is palpable.

There were times after the Celtic Tiger when the Irish Open was in the rough. The state, through Fáilte Ireland, had to step in so that pictures of Killarney and Fota, Druids Glen and Carton House, could be beamed around the world and seen by wellheeled golf tourists in the United States and Asia.

In 2019, the state tourism body estimated that c.220,000 visitors had come to Ireland with the primary purpose of playing golf, and that their average ‘drop’ in terms of spending while here was €1,800.

In the pre-JP McManus era, Adare Manor had to step back from the third year of a deal because of the cost. Mobile phone company 3 sponsored for one year, when Shane Lowry won in memorable scenes at Baltray. However, the purse was less than it had been, and the Irish Open’s lustre was fading.

Walbert said at the time of the sponsorshi­p announceme­nt. “We have forged meaningful relationsh­ips in Ireland and know that serving as the title partner of this historic tournament will serve as a platform to positively impact the Irish and global community.”

The tournament has moved back to the first week of September, coming straight after the KPMG Women’s Open at Dromoland Castle, an event that Horizon is also backing, two days after the College Football Classic at the Aviva Stadium, and weeks out from the European staging of the Solheim Cup in Spain and the Ryder Cup in Italy.

The Irish Open at the K Club in Co. Kildare is expected to be popular for corporate entertainm­ent, as it’s the closest the tournament has been to Dublin since 2016. The Open is a marketing boost for the Straffan facility, which is under new ownership since the sale by the Smurfit family to Michael Fetherston in 2020 for c.€70m. The K Club will also be home to the event in 2025 and 2027, with courses in Northern Ireland hosting in alternate years.

The TV cameras will be rolling in the home market on RTÉ, around Britain and Europe on Sky, and crucially in the US on the Golf Channel.

 ?? ?? Major winner Shane Lowry will be a star attraction at The K Club
Major winner Shane Lowry will be a star attraction at The K Club

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