By Brian Keogh
Former Ryder Cup skipper Sam Torrance will play for a record €67,500 winner's cheque when he defends the AIB Irish Seniors Open at PGA National Ireland from June 1-3.
Sponsors AIB and backers Greenstar and Failte Ireland have boosted the kitty to €450,000 - an increase of €30,000 on last year's thriller at Fota Island where Torrance triumphed in a play-off.
The winner's cheque is also up by €4,500 on the 2006 prize with Torrance set to be challenged by the in-form Gordon J Brand, Irish Ryder Cup star Eamonn Darcy, former winners Carl Mason and Noel Ratcliffe, and Italy’s Costantino Rocca.
The PGA National course at Palmerstown House estate in Naas is owned Citywest millionaire Jim Mansfield.
Christy O'Connor Jnr designed the course and a massive €3 million was spent on mature trees alone.
And European Seniors Tour boss Andy Stubbs expects a bumper crowd to turn up over the Bank Holiday weekend to see the former European Tour greats battle it out.
Stubbs said: "Thanks to the long-term commitment of AIB, and two loyal associate sponsors in Greenstar and Fáilte Ireland, the Irish Seniors Open has grown into a significant tournament on the European Seniors Tour Schedule over the past decade.
"This year we are delighted to be able to bring the tournament back to the many thousands of golf fans in and around Ireland’s capital, especially in a year when the Irish Open on The European Tour is switching to Limerick.
"With it also being a Bank Holiday weekend in Ireland, we hope to attract bumper crowds to Palmerstown House."
Course owner Mansfield added "We are delighted to welcome the AIB Irish Seniors Open to Co Kildare and proud to host the first, of which we hope to be many major golf events at the PGA National Ireland."