New pro tour for Irish ladies

Former tour player Aideen Rogers is planning a new ladies professional tour in Ireland.

The Lady Golfers of Ireland Tour (LGI Tour) will been designed to bridge the gap between amateur golf and the Ladies European Tour.

The idea is the brainchild of Dubliner Rogers, who played full time on the Ladies European Tour for eight years, and business partner James Fitzpatrick.

Rogers said: "There was never anything to play in apart from the Ladies European Tour and there is still no mini tour or Challenge Tour equivalent so this is badly needed.

"There is a huge market for it and if all the associations go with us on it and give us 100 percent it will be great. If not, we will just go it alone.

"There are only about 10 or 12 Irish lady professionals but the potential is huge to help young amateurs prepare for life on tour.

"When I turned professional the ILGU could do nothing more for me but luckily got my LET card straight away and went from there.

"If I hadn't managed to get my LET card I would have been left floating around for two years."

The LGI Tour hopes to provide an entry point for Ireland's top women golfers into the Irish Ladies Open, which will be revived next season.

Fitzpatrick explained: "The idea came about last Christmas when we were talking about creating a new Irish Ladies Open.

"Then we heard that Failte Ireland were in talks about bringing the Solheim Cup here in 2011 and reviving the Irish Ladies Open.

"So we got onto the Ladies European Tour about designing a feeder system into the ladies professional game for amateurs and professionals.

"There really isn't a link between amateur and professional so this will help create one.

"It will be like the EuroPro Tour for men rather than the Telia Tour, which gives women an entry point into the Ladies European Tour.

"This will be a feeder tour for the Irish Ladies Open and the plan is to give five exemptions into that event every year from 2008 to 2012, which is the duration of Failte Ireland's agreement with the LET.

"It is basically a stepping stone between amateur and professional so you will have the top 10 or 20 ladies playing on this tour before they turn professional

"We have provisionally talked to Failte Ireland and we are looking at two non-exempt placements through Failte Ireland sponsorship for the 2008 Irish Ladies Open."

The first event will take place at Druids Glen on July 22 with a major Pro-Celebrity tournament planned for Druids Heath from October 12-14.

Fitzpatrick added: "There is no real structural link between the amateur game and the ladies professional game so this is a good starting point.

"Hopefully we will get to the stage of becoming a feeder tour for the LET, but initially we will be feeding the Irish Ladies Open.

"We hope to run a large Pro-Celebrity at Druids Heath in October with a prize fund of between €60,000 and €100,000.

"This will give us a lot of exposure and our LET pros such as Martina Gillen and Rebecca Coakely have already agreed to take part."

The event takes place the week after the Dunhill Links at St Andrews and the final LET event of the season in Madrid.

And Fitzpatrick, who also runs a casting service for the film and TV industry, is hoping to work with IMG and other partners to get celebrities to come straight to Ireland from St Andrews.

(Rory amazed by Dazza)

Rory McIlroy says he's amazed that mentor Darren Clarke can play at all after the nightmare of 2006.

The Dungannon ace has missed his last four cuts in a row and McIlroy can't say he's surprised.

McIlroy said: 'He is struggling a bit and when you are not playing too well on the golf course your mind starts wandering a bit.

"I know mine does anyway and I am sure everyone else is the same. You start to think about other things when you are not hitting the shots and you are not totally there.

"It is going to be be really hard for him to get back up and running again. What he has had to go through has just been so difficult for him."

McIlroy was one of the first people to console Clarke at his late wife's funeral last August.

The pair have developed a close relationship with Clarke flying McIlroy to the Spanish Open on his private jet last week.

Clarke is trying to raise his sons Conor and Tyrone alone following the loss if his wife last year.

And McIlroy full understands the heartache his future ISM stablemate is going through.

He explained: "It is not his fault. It is just really hard. If I was in his position and was going through all he's going through, I probably wouldn't even be playing golf.

"But he is so talented, if he gets a few rounds under his belt and starts playing pretty good and gets a sniff of contention, he will be back again."

(Calling all Juniors)
Junior Golfers all over all Ireland are invited to try the Padraig Harrington designed GUI National Academy - for free.

The Golfing Union of Ireland National Academy has announced the first-ever Opel Antara Junior Golf Weekend from August 25-26.

Entirely free and open to both golf clubs and members of the general public and golfers from the ages of six to 14 can come along and get tips from the pros on all levels of chipping, putting and driving.

They can also participate in the Opel Antara Junior Putting Challenge on the state of the art putting and chipping greens and use the world class range featuring grass tees.

It's the perfect training ground for your budding Padraig Harrington or Ladies European Tour player Rebecca Coakley.

One of the highlights of the weekend will be the Opel Antara Junior Putting Challenge, which will run throughout the two days and see more than 250 boys and girls putt their way to the top of the leaderboard.

This is the only event of the weekend that requires pre-registration and participants can contact their local golf clubs for more information or visit

Tommie Basquille, President of the GUI said: "We are delighted to stage this event at our National Academy and Opel's involvement will only help develop and enhance our junior golf programme."

(ILGU Prizes)

ILGU president Ann Bradshaw has nominated Arthritis Ireland as the sole beneficiary of the proceeds from the 2007 ILGU Prizes.

Ten one-day ladies golf tournaments will be held nationwide in June, July and August.

Bradshaw said: "I am delighted to nominate Arthritis Ireland as the President’s Charity for the 2007 ILGU Prizes.

"One in every six people in Ireland is affected by the disease and the ILGU is proud to support Arthritis Ireland in the provision of their vital support services nationwide."

In 2006, €10,000 was raised from the proceeds of the ILGU Prizes for the Irish Cancer Society.