George O’Grady flagged in Dubai last month and last night it was confirmed - the Irish Open will return to the Killeen Course at the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club from July 28-31 next year.
The announcement was made last night by European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady and Fáilte Ireland Chairman Redmond O’Donoghue at the Irish Links Society Dinner in the Burlington Hotel in Dublin and will be the fourth time in history that the tournament has been staged at the renowned County Kerry venue.
The European Tour must now work hard to secure a title sponsor to replace 3, who declined to take up its option to back the event for a third year following successful stagings at County Louth and Killarney in 2008 and 2009.
O’Grady said: “All our members have spoken very highly of Killarney Golf and Fishing Club and the tremendous welcome given to them, not only by the club but by the town of Killarney itself. There was a wonderful festival atmosphere generated by the record crowds over the course of the week and we are so pleased to be returning.”
Redmond O’Donoghue added: “We are delighted to once again be involved in this great event and to commit to being a major sponsor to ensure its continued success. The 2010 tournament saw a revival of the event to its former status and provided a fantastic opportunity to showcase Ireland to an audience of 394 million homes worldwide.
“The event attracted the best field seen for many years with 25 of Europe’s top 50 players participating. Some 82,000 spectators came to Killarney Golf and Fishing Club over the four days – the second highest attendance for a European Tour event after their flagship BMW PGA Championship which was attended by 88,000 spectators. We are happy to be able to confirm our continued involvement in the Irish Open for 2011.”
Mary Hanafin, Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, said: “This is wonderful news for Killarney and for Irish golf. Everyone who attended the tournament and millions of television viewers across the globe were enthralled by the golf and the beauty of the scenery in Killarney. I witnessed myself the warm festival atmosphere that was afforded to players, their families, caddies, officials and golf enthusiasts at the event in the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club last July. The world class field of players, including some of our top Irish golfers, ensured that the event was a huge success. It is great to once again showcase all that is good about golf in Ireland.”
If the tour fails to secure a major international sponsor, it is likely the the €3m prize fund on offer for the last two years will drop considerably in 2011.
This year’s tournament attracted a bumper attendance of 82,000 over the four tournament days and with the final day of the 2011 tournament once again falling on the Sunday before the August public holiday in Ireland, it is expected that similar crowds numbers will make their way to the Killeen Course.
Maurice O’Meara, General Manager of Killarney Golf and Fishing Club said: “Killarney Golf and Fishing Club is delighted and welcomes the announcement that the 2011 Irish Open will return to Killarney to be played on the world-class Killeen Course. Following the amazing success of last year’s Irish Open, we hope that we can build on this success and add even more to this year’s event.
“We look forward to working closely with The European Tour, Fáilte Ireland and all of the local businesses in Killarney to make the 2011 Irish Open one of the Irish sporting events of the year. Having welcomed the leading European Tour players in 2010 we hope that they and their families will return again in 2011 for a Bank Holiday festival of golf.”