Irish golf’s biggest stars will be to the fore when the 2014 Irish Open takes place at Fota Island Resort from 19th – 22nd June, in front of an expected attendance of over 100,000 in what promises to be an unforgettable festival of golf, writes the European Tour.
Major champions Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke along with European Ryder Cup captain, Paul McGinley, and 2009 winner Shane Lowry, who today launched the countdown to the 2014 event, will form part of an elite home challenge.
They will be joined by a quality field of previous European Tour winners and upcoming stars including young Italian superstar, 21-year-old Matteo Manassero, a four-time winner on the European Tour, who will make his third appearance at the Irish Open this year. Manassero will be expecting some Irish support with his caddie, Dave McNeilly coming from Belfast and having worked for three-time Major Champion, Pádraig Harrington.
The Europeans will be joined on course by the USA’s John Daly, who will bring his own inimitable style and colour to the event as the group chases a share in the €2m prize fund and the much -coveted Irish Open trophy.
England’s Paul Casey is set to make a return visit to Ireland to defend his 2013 title, but the Irish contingent is expected to be on top form and hungry to add to the four Championship titles on home turf in 40 years.*
Launching the countdown to the 2014 Irish Open, Lowry, who famously triumphed in 2009 as an amateur, spoke warmly about the Irish galleries. He said: “The Irish crowds are the envy of golfing galleries the world over, with their knowledge of and passion for the sport. I am sure that their support was a huge factor in my own success in 2009 and I know I speak for my fellow Irish players on the Tour when I say that their presence can be worth a couple of shots every round and that could be the difference come Sunday afternoon.
“I’ve played the course at Fota Island a few times recently and it will be a difficult but fair challenge. I’m confident that it will suit my own game and I have a huge desire to repeat the feeling I had on the 18th green in Baltray five years ago. That’s the plan and that’s the goal and I can’t wait to get out there on June 19. The countdown is well and truly on.”
The players will face a stern test on the Jeff Howes-designed Deerpark course and with precious Ryder Cup points on the line, the event promises to be one of the most competitive on this year’s European Tour International Schedule. The 2014 tournament will be broadcast live from the picturesque Fota Island Resort to an estimated global audience of 400 million.
Since the Irish Open was played at Fota Island Resort in 2001 and 2002, the course has undergone extensive changes. Most recently, five tees have been extended, bringing the course to 7043 yards but it can feel much longer due to the five par threes.
The most significant change, however, and what will likely prove to be the legacy change for Fota Island Resort, is the dramatic adaptation made to the sixth. Working with the existing landscape, a new tee box has been created, with a spectacular 200-yard carry over a sea wall and the sea.
Although the green is visible, it is a blind shot into the landing area, so if conditions are right the Tour’s longer hitters might take it on and try to chase it up onto the green, but even then they will be facing into a tricky, two-tiered green.
“We are very proud to welcome the Irish Open back to East Cork and Fota Island Resort” said Jonathan Woods, CEO of Fota Island Resort. “Our team has been working hard in prepartation across every aspect of the Resort, both on and off the course. The course itself has never looked better.
“We’ve made some bold changes and many subtle ones in preparation for the return of the tournament, and in the new layout at the sixth we have created something dramatic, challenging and visually stunning that I believe will become our new signature hole. We look forward to welcoming the players, spectators and television viewers to experience what this great golf course can offer”.
Looking forward to the 2014 event, Antonia Beggs, Championship Director of the Irish Open said; “The Irish Open has taken on a new lease of life in the last number of years, with our decision to rotate between breath-taking courses North and South of the border proving hugely popular with spectators.
“This year, we are delighted to be heading south to Cork and the pristine surrounds of Fota Island Resort to which we are returning for the third time in the tournament’s 87 year history. It’s thrilling for The European Tour and spectators alike that all of Ireland’s leading golfers are once again supporting their national tournament and their presence and that of a number of previous and potential Ryder Cup team members solidifies the tournament’s status as one of the most prestigious on The European Tour’s Race to Dubai.”
Explaining the behind-the-scenes effort that goes into staging the event, Beggs continued, “The Irish Open would not be the showcase of Irish and European golf it is without the generous support of our corporate partners and I would like to acknowledge the part they play in bringing the tournament to fruition. In addition, it takes a team of over 1,600 people to deliver an event of this scale and quality and in fact, we already have staff on site since the beginning of May, preparing for the anticipated 100,000 plus spectators we expect to welcome over the four days.
“We also hope to see a great turn out for the Pro Am on June 18, when visitors can get up close and personal with the Tour players along with some well known celebrities.”
Tony Lenehan, Head of Golf Tourism with Failte Ireland, the long-term major supporter of the irish Open, welcomed the event’s return to Cork and commented: “The Irish Open allows us to showcase everything that is good about the golf product to the domestic and international markets.
“The overseas media reach of the Irish Open is not to be under-estimated with over 1400 hours of international media coverage in over 110 territories. International broadcast of the Irish Open will contribute handsomely to our strategic plans to promote Ireland as a golfing destination in new and emerging markets.”
What’s New – the Art of Golf
This year sees the launch of the first-ever Irish Open Children’s Art Competition in association with the Confederation of Golf in Ireland (CGI). Shane Lowry launched the initiative that invites primary school children from all over Ireland to get out their pencils, paints and crayons and submit their interpretation of the theme – My Ireland, My Irish Open.
Winning submissions will be displayed at a special Irish Open Children’s Art Exhibition in the tented village during the four-day event. Lowry also announced details of a very special piece of art to which all 156 players will be invited to contribute that will be on display alongside the children’s artwork, before being auctioned for charity. “Golf is great for children of all ages,” said Lowry, “and if we can pique their interest through something they love, such as drawing, we might encourage them to try out a new sport that is fun, sociable and can be hugely rewarding, although I won’t be telling them about how it can sometimes be frustrating. That’s just golf and the good days far outweigh the bad.”
This is the first time that the art of golf has been so prominent on the Irish Open’s agenda, the aim of which is to partner with CGI and encourage young people’s interest in the sport.
The Irish Open – A national stage for a global audience; the stats
The Irish Open is recognised as a significant showcase for Ireland’s golf tourism. The event will be tracked by over 50 TV cameras and 120 TV production staff who will bring the famous festival of golf live to a global audience, with all eyes on Cork.
The event is a full field European Tour comprising the leading 156 European Tour Professionals and four amateur players. It will take a combined force of 1,550 Irish Open staff and volunteers together with 70 European Tour staff to host the event, along with one chief referee and seven rules officials, who will oversee proceedings.
A 40 bay driving range and over 7,000 golf balls will keep the players busy in down-time and almost every ball hit across the weekend will be donated to Junior Golf Ireland and host venue, Fota Island Resort. The European Tour will welcome over 200 international media and spectators are expected to travel from as far afield as the USA and Japan for the event.
The 2014 Irish Open is organised by the European Tour and kindly supported by Failte Ireland, Cork City Council, Cork County Council, Bam Contractors, BMW, Emirates, Fota Island Resort, Heineken, Irish Examiner and West Coast.
The Irish Open is a family-friendly event, with under 16’s admitted free when accompanied by an adult. The event is a must for any golfing enthusiast and this year Fota Island Resort will provide the backdrop to a weekend packed with family entertainment and live music throughout the city and county of Cork.
The 75-acre Fota Wildlife Park, which is home to gibbons and giraffes, flora and fauna, is mere walking distance from proceedings and is Cork’s leading visitor attraction. Live at The Marquee takes place across the weekend featuring performances from Tom Jones and Imelda May. Music-lovers can also indulge in some Il Divo, with the world-beating classical crossover quartet taking to the stage with the City of Cork Symphony Orchestra at Musgrave Park on June 21.
On site, there will be free live music on Saturday and Sunday evenings from 4.30pm; visitors can practice their swing in the Swing Zone; enjoy some fine food and beverages in the tented village; pop into the interactive zone or chill out in front of the big screens, which will relay all the oncourse action live.
Spectators can enjoy spectacular views from specially constructed Grandstands on both the 9th and 18th Greens, with tickets priced at €10. Grandstand tickets for the final day of play are already sold out.
Getting there by train
Iarnród Éireann Irish Rail offers frequent daily InterCity Train Services from Dublin, Limerick and Kerry to Cork for the Irish Open, with a connection at Kent Station, Cork for Fota.
Mallow in North Cork has an excellent Commuter Train service to Cork each day with a journey time of just 28 minutes.
Fota Island, which is beautifully situated in the middle of Cork Harbour, has its own Railway Station – only thirteen minutes by train from Kent Station, Cork – and a short walk from Fota Station to a special entrance, which leads directly onto the Golf Course at Fota Island Resort (beside the fourth hole).
Fota Station already has 23 train services a day (weekdays) in each direction on the Cork to Cobh Line. Iarnród Éireann Irish Rail is planning to increase the frequency of trains and add additional capacity to its services to Fota for the Irish Open.
In East Cork, the Midleton to Cork Commuter Rail Line, which was not open in 2002 (the last time the Irish Open was played at Fota Island Resort), is now open (August 2009), and Iarnród Éireann Irish Rail is offering Free Parking at its Stations in East Cork and invites all golf enthusiasts to Park at Midleton Station or Carrigtwohill Station and Take The Train to Fota for the Irish Open.www.irishrail.ie or call 1-850-366222 for more information.
Full details on the traffic plan for the Irish Open will be announced over the coming weeks.
The event offers great value with advance tickets priced at €30 for an Adult Day Ticket (€35 at gate) and €70 for Adult Season Tickets (€80 at gate). Under 16s are free of charge when accompanied by an adult. Grandstands are free to the public but can also be pre-booked for €10 on Saturday and €15 on Sunday.
*Irish winners since 1975
1975 – Christy O’Connor Jnr
1982 – John O’Leary
2007 – Pádraig Harrington
2009 – Shane Lowry
FOTA ISLAND RESORT – THE COURSE
409 yard par 4 with a left to right dogleg. Three new trees on the right hand side of the fairway from the tee. Best position for a tee shot is the left hand side of the fairway, as it gives good access to all pin positions. Bunker on the back left of the green to be avoided.
Straight par 4 measuring 461 yards. Bunkers on the right hand side of the fairway. Best approach to the green is from the right hand side of the fairway to avoid a tree which overhangs the left hand side of the bunker.
Picturesque 165 yard par 3. Very attractive short par 3 with water short, left and right. There is a bunker behind the green which is to be avoided.
Par 5, first of the new tees, measures 580 yards. Fairway slopes left to right off the tee and there is woodland on the left. There is a 329 yard carry over a bunker on the right hand side of the fairway which is to be avoided. A 300 yard tee shot leaves 280 yards to a very well guarded green.
Second of the new tees. 575 yards long par 5, with trees on the right and left. Need to hit the ball on the right hand side of the fairway to leave an opportunity of hitting the green in 2, going over high trees on the left hand side of the hole.
Third and most spectacular of the new tees. Drivable par 4 (yardage and details to be confirmed) from the new tee box, has a very well bunkered approach and has a difficult two tiered green.
179 yard par 3 to a well bunkered raised green Very strong par 3.
478 yard par 4, undoubtedly the toughest hole on the course. Right to left dogleg with bunkers on the left hand side of the hole which are 295 yards to carry. A good tee shot generally leaves a 200 yard second shot slightly up hill with the green guarded on the right hand side by bunkers and by a lake on the left hand side.
424 yard par 4, semi blind tee shot. Fairway slopes right to left. The tee shot requires a fade to hold the fairway leaving a short iron downhill approach to a narrow green. Best not to miss this green long.
Fourth of the new tees. 530 yard par 5. Downhill narrow tee shot that requires a fade to get into the right position which is the right hand side of the fairway – this will leave a long iron approach to a raised green surrounded on three sides by water.
168 yard par 3 guarded by a bunker on the left, bunker long and water on the right hand side.
Very strong par 4, water left off the tee and trouble right. Approach shot is to a difficult 2 tier green.
208 yard par 3. Bunker and water to the left, bunkers right. Very good par 3 where the best miss is short.
417 yard par 4. Up hill tee shot, 3 bunkers on the left hand side. Trees lining the right hand side of the fairway. Second tee shot is to a narrow semi blind green with bunkers short and right.
476 yard par 4, right to left dog leg. Bunkers and trees to the left. The fairway slopes left to right with trees on the right hand side. Draw required off the tee to hold fairway. Second shot slightly down hill to a generous green with a bunker on the right hand side.
417 yard par 4. Bunkers right off the tee, trees both left and right. Fairway slopes left to right. Short iron approach to a difficult 2 tier green. Definitely do not go long on this hole.
223 yard par 3, long and difficult hole. Bunker guarding the right hand side of the green. Hollow on the left hand side of the green. If you find yourself in the hollow it is very difficult to get up and down.
Signature hole. 530 yard par 5. Very narrow tee shot with trees left and right. A good drive at this hole will leave a 200 yards down hill second shot to a green surrounded by water on 3 sides. Great tournament finishing hole as it gives the possibility of scores ranging from 3 to 7.