The Irish Senior Open has been axed from the 2011 European Senior Tour schedule because of lack of sponsorship. But the news that the event will not be going ahead for a 15th successive year was not unexpected considering Wentworth’s grim battle to keep the Irish Open itself afloat in difficult economic times.
Coinciding with the release of this season’s schedule, a European Senior Tour spokesman said: “Unfortunatley it has not be possible to make the Irish Senior Open happen this year but we hope that it will return to the schedule in the future.”
The Irish Senior Open was first played in 1997 when Tommy Horton triumphed at St Margarets. But it was heavily reliant on sponsorship from AIB and Fáilte Ireland, which has been forced to invest its reduced resources in the Irish Open on the main European Tour.
AIB were the title sponsors from 1997 to 2007 and the tournament quickly gained prestige with the prize fund rising from €235,000 at Mount Juliet in 1999 to a high of €450,000 in 2007 and 2008.
With AIB and Fáilte Ireland as associate sponsors, the prize fund dropped to €350,000 at Ballybunion in 2009 where Ian Woosnam claimed the title. However, that memorable event was the last involving AIB as the bank decided to concentrate its resources on this year’s Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle.
Last year’s Irish Senior Open was saved at the last minute by Japanese philanthropist Dr Haruhisa Handa with the players teeing it up for a €250,000 pot in the “Handa Irish Senior Open presented by Fáilte Ireland” at Carton House.
Handa will again make a huge contribution to the 2011 European Senior Tour schedule by sponsoring no fewer than six events on the provisional schedule, two of which were played last November.
According to the European Senior Tour:
The 2011 European Senior Tour schedule, announced today, will comprise a minimum of 19 Order of Merit tournaments in 13 different countries and will end with a new season-ending tournament in Mauritius.
New destinations for the 2011 campaign are Australia, China, Germany and Japan, underlining the Senior Tour’s significant global development as it marks its 20th season.
In a change to the Senior Tour calendar, the season will culminate at Constance Belle Mare Plage, in Mauritius, from December 9-11, meaning the 2011 campaign, which started last November, will span 13 months.
Five events are “To Be Announced” or TBA but Andy Stubbs, Managing Director of the European Senior Tour, said: “The 2011 season promises to be a fantastic year for the European Senior Tour and we are extremely grateful to all of our sponsors, promoters and joint sanctioning bodies for helping the Senior Tour to continue its development.
“In our 20th year we are looking at our best season to date, with a number of contractual discussions ongoing that will add new tournaments to what is already an extremely strong schedule.”
Unfortunatley for the Irish Senior Open, it is not one of the events under discussion.
EUROPEAN SENIOR TOUR – 2011 PROVISIONAL SCHEDULE
Nov 19 – 21 Handa Australian Senior Open, Royal Perth Golf Club, Australia
Nov 25 – 28 Handa Cup Senior Masters, Ohmurasaki Golf Club, Japan
Dec 10 – 12 Mauritius Commercial Bank Open Constance Belle Mare Plage, Mauritius
Mar 4-6 Aberdeen Brunei Senior Masters presented by the Stapleford Forum, The Empire Hotel & Country Club, Brunei
Mar 11-13 ISPS Handa Senior World Championship presented by Mission Hills, World Cup Course, Mission Hills, China
April 20-22 TBA TBA
April 26-29 US Senior PGA Championship Valhalla Golf Club, Louisville, USA
June 3-5 ISPS Handa Senior Masters presented by the Stapleford Forum, Stapleford Park, England
June 9-12 De Vere Club PGA Seniors Championship, Hunting Course, De Vere Slaley Hall, England
June 17-19 Berenberg Bank Masters, Cologne Golf und Land Club, Germany
June 24-26 Van Lanschot Senior Open, The Royal Haagsche Golf & Country Club, Netherlands
July 1-3 Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open, Golf Club Bad Ragaz, Switzerland
July 21-24 Senior Open Championship, Walton Heath Golf Club, England
July 28-31 US Senior Open*, Inverness Club, Ohio, USA
Aug 12-14 TBA TBA
Aug 19-21 Cleveland Golf / Srixon Scottish Senior Open, Fairmont St. Andrews, Scotland
Sept 2-4 Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters, Duke’s Course, Woburn Golf Club, England
Sept 16-18 Casa Serena Open, Casa Serena Golf, Czech Republic
Sept 22-24 Cannes Mougins Masters, Golf Country Club de Cannes Mougins, France
30 Sept – Oct 2 TBA, TBA
Oct 14 – 16 TBA, TBA
Nov 4-6 Handa Australia Senior Open, TBA, Australia
Nov 10-13 Handa Cup Senior Masters, Ohmurasaki Golf Club, Japan
Nov 18-20 TBA, TBA
Dec 9-11 Mauritius Commercial Bank Open, Constance Belle Mare Plage, Mauritius