The Irish Open, one of the most enduring and prestigious championships on The European Tour International Schedule, will return to the classic links of County Louth Golf Club, Baltray, from May 14-17 this year.
The official announcement of 3 as the major new title sponsor for The Irish Open is expected to be made before the end of the month.
Designed in 1938 by Tom Simpson, the championship links at County Louth has consistently featured in golfing publications as one of Ireland’s ‘hidden gems’ and earned rave reviews when The Irish Open was played over its sumptuous links for the only time in 2004.
On that occasion, Australia’s Brett Rumford held off a strong challenge from Padraig Harrington who, as history has shown, went on to win his national title three years later on his way to capturing the first of three Major Championships in the space of 13 months.
Two-time Open and reigning US PGA Champion Harrington declared: “I am delighted to hear that The Irish Open is returning to Baltray. It is certainly one of the most exciting links courses in the country and one I have enjoyed playing in the past. I look forward to the tournament being a great success.”
Kevin Byrne, Captain of County Louth Golf Club, commented: “On behalf of County Louth Golf Club may I say what a great honour it is for us to be chosen as the venue for The 2009 Irish Open.
“We are indeed delighted to once again be favoured by The European Tour. With over 70,000 spectators visiting us in 2004 and the expectation of the same again, we are aware not only of the honour bestowed upon us but also the immensity of the undertaking, and, of course, the consequent tourism benefit to the local community.
“The Club acknowledges the co-operation of the Irish Ladies Golf Union, the local community and adjoining landowners, whose contributions are significant to the overall success of the venue.
“Finally The European Tour, Sponsors, Competitors and those attending can be assured of the usual friendly welcome and on their visit to ‘Baltray’”.
Martin Cullen TD, Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, stated: "I welcome the announcement by The European Tour that County Louth Golf Club will be the host venue for The 2009 Irish Open. I congratulate the Officials and Members of County Louth Golf Club for their generous offer to host this prestigious event.
“In my contacts with golfers of The European Tour, I have been very conscious of their desire to play on Ireland's world renowned links courses. While they have greatly enjoyed playing on the excellent parkland courses on which The Irish Open was staged in recent years, they relish the challenges posed by a links golf course.
“The magnificent County Louth golf course at Baltray, which has previously hosted The 2004 Irish Open, will provide a fitting challenge for the abilities of Europe's finest golfers in May 2009. The televising of The Irish Open throughout the world will also provide the opportunity to promote Ireland as an attractive location for golfing leisure holidays and sporting tournaments.”
George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, said: “We look forward to announcing a new title sponsor in due course, but at the moment we are absolutely delighted at the prospect of a return to one of the most superb, natural links golf courses in the world.”
Irish Ryder Cup player Paul McGinley, added: “I was a Member at County Louth as a junior and I am absolutely delighted that The Irish Open is going there. The event has probably gone from the best inland course in Ireland - Adare Manor - to the best links course in Ireland, in my opinion, at Baltray.
“Baltray hits the nail on the head for the spectators from the north and south. We have that new road from Dublin to Belfast which encourage great crowds, so it ticks all the boxes as a venue.”