Organisers of the Northern Ireland Open Challenge at Galgorm Castle have announced details of pre-qualifying events for the province’s showpiece professional tournament in 2013.
An 18 hole strokeplay event will take place at the Ballymena venue on Monday, August 12 where the top five players qualify for the £145,000 (€170,000) Challenge Tour event, presented by Clannah and Xjetm which takes place at the same venue from August 29 to September 1.
The pre-qualifier is open to all professionals and elite amateurs with a scratch handicap or less. A sudden death play-off will decide the final qualifying place(s) and a maximum of three amateurs can qualify.
After the success of last year’s Irish Open at Portrush, Galgorm Castle quickly realised the importance of continuing the run of professional tournaments in Northern Ireland plus affording aspiring young players the opportunity to compete on home soil and test themselves in a championship environment against the tour’s leading players from across Europe.
“From a selfish point of view it’s very important to have such a great tournament here in Northern Ireland. It also gives home players the opportunity to get into other events in Europe,” explained Gareth Shaw, Galgorm Castle’s touring professional, who competes on the Challenge Tour.
“A number of overseas players will get invited to compete at Galgorm but in turn those invites are exchanged with events in other countries and that’s vital. It is a huge deal to have a tournament like this at home,” said Shaw, who believes the pre-qualifying event for both professionals and amateurs is a great opportunity for players not already exempt.
“A home event also allows friends, family and coaches to come along to watch during the week and obviously it’s a lot cheaper for us on travel costs too. On average I’ll budget €1000 (£840) a week when abroad but it won’t cost anything like that competing at Galgorm,” added Shaw, who is based at Castledawson less than 30 minutes from Galgorm.
Entry to the one-off pre-qualifier is £95 (€110) with the field restricted to 120 competitors. The entry closing date is Monday, July 29 and official practice to take place on Sunday, August 11 after 3pm. The event will be managed and administered by the PGA Irish Region.
There is a further opportunity to qualify for the NI Open Challenge as the winner of the North of Ireland Amateur Open Strokeplay will be invited to tee it up with the professionals.
As twith the Golfing Union of Ireland’s established ‘major’ championships, the annual North of Ireland Amateur Open Strokeplay at Galgorm has quickly built up a reputation as one of the top events on the calendar and as such carries R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking Points.
The 72-hole strokeplay event takes place on Monday, July 15-16 when Cormac Sharvin from Ardglass will return to defend his title after winning from a play-off with Massareene’s Tiarnan McLarnon 12 months ago.
Other notables looking to tee it up will include Newcastle’s Ireland international Reeve Whitson, the Spanish Amateur champion with aspirations of making this year’s Walker Cup team.