So it’s goodbye to The European Club and hello to The Island.

Padraig Harrington, Michael McCumiskey and John Kelly in 2008Just don’t hold your breath waiting for the PGA Irish Region to put out a press release on Padraig Harrington’s bid for a seventh Irish Professional Championship title in the Donabate area next July.

So far, just two things are crystal clear. 

One - Pat Ruddy’s European Club won’t be playing host for a fourth year in a row.

And two - Padraig Harrington said in Shanghai on Sunday that he’s definitely playing the Irish PGA from July 8-11 - the week before the Open at St Andrews. 

Harrington’s enlistment comes with the usual proviso - put it on a links course the week before the Open and I'm your man.

Well-placed sources insist that The Island - an Open qualifying course - has been chosen to play host for the second time since Neil Manchip clinched that shock win over Darren Clarke in 1999. 

Speaking after the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, Harrington said: “I have spoken with Irish PGA officials and though the new venue has not been confirmed officially, I will play next year. It will be played the week before I play the British Open at St Andrews, so that’s fine with me.

“The European Club has been ideal preparation for me for the Open for the past three years but we all knew we were going to move on at some stage.”

Now all the Irish PGA needs is for Harrington to say he’ll play the Wednesday pro-am and the sponsorship money will start rolling in. Right? Well, not quite.

First of all, the Irish PGA says it has heard nothing official from Harrington, ie, Harrington's manager.

Secondly, the Irish PGA says that nothing has been signed, sealed and delivered with The Island or any other golf course.

Michael McCumiskey, secretary of the PGA Irish Region, insisted: "We were approached by a number of clubs but we have agreed nothing with any club. So far there is nothing planned, decided or agreed for 2010 at all."

With sponsorship a real headache, McCumiskey is more worried about Harrington’s intention to skip the traditional Wednesday pro-am.

The current world No 6 was adamant after last year’s win at The European Club that he would need a day off after joining Tiger Woods in the JP McManus Invitational Pro-Am at Adare Manor on Monday and Tuesday July 5-6. 

If he plays the French Open from July 1-4, then July 7 is a rest day.

That means trouble for McCumiskey for whom the pro-am round with Harrington is the sole attraction for potential sponsors.

But who is willing to sponsor the Irish Professional Championship in these days of doom and gloom?

What was once the biggest closed professional tournament in Europe is now the poor relation - the Scottish PGA champion got nearly €10,000 this year with Harrington earning just €4,000 for his sixth Irish PGA victory.

Once the Jefferson Smurfit Group pulled the sponsorship plug after the 2003 event at Adare Manor, Ireland's oldest professional tournament rode the coat tails of the Celtic Tiger for a couple of years but is now in dire trouble.

After 15 years of champagne treatment by Smurfit, the event fell on its feet when Cuisine de France, Anglo Irish Bank and others paid the bills at PGA National in 2004.

In 2005, Sherry Fitzgerald put up a €140,000 prize fund at Druids Heath, which was incredible considering the fact that the championship was played the week before the Ryder Cup and all the tour players stayed away.

David Mortimer picked up €20,000 for his deserved win but when Padraig Harrington eventually put away Brendan McGovern at The European Club in 2007, he took home just €12,500 of an €80,000 prize fund.

That was a small miracle and only came about thanks to some last minute financing by Dermot Desmond, through his Sporting Emporium.

When Labdrokes.com spotted a bargain (very late in the day) in 2008, Harrington got €10,000 of a €70,000 pot for his fifth win.

But this season’s prize fund was an embarrassment for the Irish Region and every professional in the field - €26,000 in total and just €4,000 for Harrington.

Ladbrokes certainly got good value for their €26,000. Ask Harrington’s manager how much it would cost to hire the three-time major winner for a company day and you might not get much change out of €100,000.

No wonder Harrington is planning to make pro-am day a day off in 2010.

He’ll relent no doubt, when the Irish PGA tells him they won’t get any sponsorship if he doesn’t turn up for the hack around with the amateurs.

The alternative is that Harrington will forget the whole thing and simply go practising on a links course near his home.

The Irish PGA will be played, no matter what. 

“We will definitely have an Irish Championship,” McCumiskey said this week, “but we my not have it the week before the British Open.”

The PGA Irish Region committee will meet on December 4 to talk about developments.