The vision for a new NI Open Men’s and Ladies’ event promises to be one of the standout tournaments in world golf from 2019 with the concept of two professional strokeplay events to run simultaneously.

In another bold and innovative move for Northern Ireland’s homegrown annual professional golf tournament, today’s news means the NI Open remains at the forefront of tournament golf in Europe, not only in the men’s game but now in the women’s game too.

The NI Open has been played at Galgorm Castle since 2010, which means the new concept in 2019 will neatly mark the event’s 10th anniversary. Every year the event has set record attendance figures on the European Challenge Tour with over 43,000 spectators coming through the gates in 2017 as Frenchman Robin Sciot-Siegrist lifted the trophy.

From 2019 there would be two NI Open champions with the event set to attract the best players from the European Challenge Tour and Ladies European Tour (LET).

The joint format was introduced at the Vic Open in Australia and has evolved into one of the country’s most high professional events. It also successfully stimulated greater participation in the game with two events running in conjunction with each other and the 2019 NI Open will look to deliver on a similar promise.

Plans at this stage will see Massereene Golf Club used as the second host course alongside the NI Open’s perennial home at Galgorm Castle in Ballymena. Massereene is an established parkland in Antrim just 12 miles from Galgorm Castle. In 2014, Massereene hosted the prestigious Girls’ British Open Amateur Championship.

There would be two 72-hole strokeplay events with both venues used before play concludes for both events at Galgorm Castle.

It means ladies tournament golf will return to Ireland for the first time since 2012 when Scotland’s Catriona Matthew won the Ladies Irish Open at Killeen Castle in County Meath, venue for the 2011 Solheim Cup.

Ladies tournament golf was almost an annual fixture in Ireland since the mid 1990s (no Ladies Irish Open 2004-06) and was prominent until the high profile Solheim Cup in 2011 when Europe defeated the United States. However, the last Ladies Irish Open was played a year later, and today’s news would mark a welcome return to Ireland for the Ladies European Tour.

It also comes at a key time for golf in Ireland with the Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI) and the Irish Ladies Golf Union (ILGU) in the process of merging in a historic move to become one governing body. And in recent days the governing bodies of the game in Ireland hosted the prestigious World Amateur Team Championships at Carton House in Dublin.

Two of the most successful players to emerge from the ILGU in recent years have undoubtedly been the Maguire twins, Lisa and Leona. This year they completed their studies at Duke University in the States and are making their mark in the game, just as Stephanie Meadow is plus Olivia Mehaffey, who is still an amateur. Irish women’s golf is exceptionally strong just now the return of a ladies’ tour event to Ireland comes at a key time.

Modest! Golf Director Niall Horan and their management company have been involved with the NI Open for several years and their continued support has unquestionably raised the profile and also helped their vision of trying to “develop the next generation of players”. Modest! Golf is a boutique golf management company with a select number of players on the books, including Lisa and Leona Maguire, who joined the Modest! stable in 2018. 

In 2019, all eyes will be on Royal Portrush when the Open Championship returns to Ireland for the first time since 1951. The new vision for tournament golf at Galgorm Castle will quickly become part of ‘The Open Legacy’.

Galgorm Castle and Galgorm Resort & Spa have created a distinct Golfing at Galgorm stay and play product. Galgorm Resort & Spa is already a world class destination with exciting plans for further development. Destination Galgorm is the perfect venue to host such a unique and exciting tournament.

The NI Open will command extensive global coverage in its own right from 2019. Demand for bed nights and impact on the local economy will increase significantly. The NI Open has always been a tournament for all the family and with such exciting plans for 2019 it will continue to be at the forefront of tournament golf in Ireland.