European Tour boss George O’Grady has been talking to some of the world’s most successful businessmen about some of his biggest challenges - including the Irish Open.
Despite the loss of sponsors 3 late last year, O’Grady believes the Tour can break even with a €1.5m Irish Open at Killarney this summer. But only just
“We can just about wash our face on the tournament at that price,” O’Grady said in Florida last weekend. “Just about.”
The event was worth €3m in 2009 and 2010. But that doesn’t mean that the Chief Executive of the European Tour has given up all hope of finding ways to make it bigger and better.
He was in Miami for the WGC-Cadillac Championship last week and went on to rub shoulders with some very influential business figures during the Tavistock Cup, which was held at Isleworth Golf & Country Club earlier this week.
The event is the brainchild of the billionaire British business tycoon, Joe Lewis, who owns three of the competing clubs (Isleworth, Lake Nona and Albany) and was ranked 347th in Forbes’ list of billionaires for 2011.
Not that O’Grady was about to sit down and ask Lewis for a handout.
“You don’t sell to these fellas,” O’Grady explained. “You find out how they go about things and listen to ideas.”
That’s not to say that O’Grady hasn’t been looking for leads and he travelled home from Florida to get ready to visit Ireland’s unofficial capital - Cheltenham.
“We have now got a lot of serious discussions in progress with a lot of our friends in Ireland,” he said. “So I am going to Cheltenham to discuss things because half of Ireland is at Cheltenham.”
And the future of the Irish Open? Is he hopeful that it may grow again? Soon?
“It is too far away to say that we have got anything yet but discussions continue at different levels. We are going to have talks with different people in Dublin on April 1, when we honour a retiring civil servant.
“I think Killarney is a good choice for this year. Killarney was a great tournament last year in the old fashioned sense and the whole town has really come back since I went there 20 years ago. The hotels are really good, the restaurants good and it’s played a good time of the year for lots of players.”
There is no doubt that O’Grady will sit down with the likes of JP McManus at the races today. If the genial Limerick businessman can convince Tiger Woods to play golf for charity in Ireland every five years, he’s bound to have some ideas
If the Midas Touch of a Lewis or a McManus can rub off on O’Grady, the Irish Open will be good hands. Given the state of the patient’s health, we might add: just about.