Desmond saves Irish PGA

By Brian Keogh

Billionaire Dermot Desmond has handed the Irish Professional Championship a cool €50,000 shot in the arm

And that means that Padraig Harrington will get to hone his links game the week before the Open at Carnoustie.

Irish PGA boss Michael McCumiskey confirmed yesterday that the Championship will take place at The European Club in Wicklow from July 11-14 with world No 12 Harrington a definite starter.

And a Saturday finish will give Harrington plenty of time to get to Scotland to prepare for a crack at winning the Claret Jug the following week.

Harrington said: "I am very much looking forward to playing in my national championship again. The European Club is a great test of links golf, especially under competitive conditions, and it is always enjoyable to play golf in its most traditional form."

Desmond, who is one of Ireland's richest men with an estimated fortune of €2.1 BILLION, has committed €50,000 to the event through his company International Investment & Underwriting (IIU).

And that's a major relief to McCumiskey, who is still struggling to find a title sponsor to help with the €200,000 cost of running the championship.

Harrington has been a great supporter of the PGA Championship and will be gunning for his fourth Irish title after wins at Powerscourt in 1998 and back to back victories at St. Margaret's and Palmerstown House in 2004 and 2005.

But it remains to be seen how much the millionaire Dubliner will be playing for as the search goes on for a major backer

In order to raise money, 25 Pro-Am teams will be sold for €2,000 each, boosting the kitty by €100,000.

McCumiskey said: "The important point in all of this is that the championship is happening. But what we don't know yet is the size of the prize fund.

"We have a prime slot the week before the Open Championship at Carnoustie and it will have a Saturday finish to facilitate players travelling to Scotland."

Desmond's involvement came about after a chance meeting with PGA Chief Executive Sandy Jones at the Masters earlier this year.

And it also emerged at Adare yesterday that "The Kaiser" is doing his bit for the Irish Open by underwriting a massive €1 million bonus if the winner take the BMW Championship at Wentworth next week.

Adare Manor's Tom Kane revealed that the financial arrangements have all been taken care of by golf mad Desmond, who has been a limited partner in Adare Manor since 1996.

But his involvement with the Irish PGA is even more vital.

McCumiskey added: "Dermot's committment will cover 25 percent of the cost of staging the Irish PGA Championship. We are still hoping to get a title sponsor that will ensure that the prize fund is as it was last year."

Qualifiers will be held at The European Club on June 4 and 18 with the top-30 players on both days taking their place in the championship proper.

And European Club owner Pat Ruddy is delighted to add the Irish PGA to the list of prestigious events held at the Brittas Bay links.

He said: "It's great to have the clean sweep. We have had the Irish Ladies Close and the men's Close and now the Irish Professional championship."

However, the rough at The European Club will not be as punishing as it was during last year's Irish Close when the cut fell at a massive 23 over par.

Ruddy added: "We have eased in the rough a good bit from last year. We are trying a slightly different presentation where there will be more of an onus on chipping.

"Having said that, it will have a faster meaner look and should be similar to what Padraig will face at Carnoustie the following week.

"We want to look after all the players but we especially want to give the likes of Padraig the best possible chance in the Open.

"It would be wonderful if we could play some small part in producing a Major winner."