O'Grady holds key to Irish Open qualifier

The O’Meara Course at Carton House. European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady holds the key to the potential staging of an Irish Open qualifier on the O’Meara Course in May.

The European Tour wants to boost the profile of the Irish Open, which will be played on the Montgomerie Course at Carton House from June 27-30.

The PGA Irish Region currently receives eight exemptions for the leading points winners from the 2012 Order of Merit with four amateurs nominated by the GUI and another eight invitations decided by O’Grady and the sponsors.

However, it will be up to O’Grady to decide if he will be able to sacrifice at least two of the non-PGA/GUI invitations for a qualifier which could be staged on the O’Meara Course some three weeks before the event proper.

“We have looked at that,” explained the European Tour’s James Finnigan, Commercial Director of the Irish Open. “We get inundated with requests from golfers who want to play in the Irish Open, sponsors requests. So it is something we have considered and it’s not something that we have ruled out at this stage.

“It’s a work in progress. We think it could add a little bit of excitement and give us some extra promotion of the other golf course because it is an ambition to grow the event and perhaps have the tournament on the Mark O’Meara golf course at some stage in the future.

“It will be under consideration over the next few weeks and that will come from the ‘sponsor invite’ category. As you know, we work very closely with the Irish PGA and the Golfing Union of Ireland and we won’t interfere with their spots. So if it does happen, it will come from George O’Grady’s desk and the sponsor/invite category.”