Invited amateurs will have a chance to qualify for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Ballyliffin in 2018 after the PGA agreed with the European Tour to abolish the traditional exempt spots for the leading players on the Irish Region's Order of Merit and introduce a 36-hole qualifier.
The move, which has been in the pipeline since 2015, replicates the pre-qualifying tournament for the Scottish Open with four spots available from the qualifier for what is now a $7 million Rolex Series event.
An email was sent to all members of the PGA in Ireland Region on Friday, explaining that there will be a €40,000, 36-hole qualifier in 2018 with the field comprising PGA members and a limited number of amateur and Sponsor/European Tour invites.
The email explains that the pre-qualifying tournament "will be in exactly the same format as that delivered in Scotland."
PGA in Ireland secretary Michael McCumiskey explained that the exact entry criteria, while expected to be almost identical to Scotland's, will not be finalised until the entry form is drawn up.
A venue has yet to be decided but the event will be held on Saturday and Sunday, June 30 and July 1, which is the weekend before to the 2018 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, which is scheduled for July 5-8.
The 130 strong in Scotland this year included six amateurs nominated by Scottish Golf Ltd.
This will mean that the GUI will be able to nominate up to six amateurs for the Irish Open pre-qualifier which, amongst myriad exemptions, will also offer spots to the "leading 15 players (to a limit of 80th place)" on the 2018 PGA Europro Tour Order of Merit at the closing date.
Scottish amateur Sandy Scott finished fourth in the Scottish Open qualifier last year but missed the cut by 10 strokes in the event proper at Dundonald Links. In fact, none of the four qualifiers made the cut. Results
Here's an extract from the letter sent to PGA in Ireland members on Friday:
Following the introduction of the Rolex Series to the European Tour schedule, a number of changes have been made the eligibility criteria for these 8 tournaments which impacts on playing opportunities for local or national players in South Africa, Italy, France, Scotland, England and Ireland.
We have discussed these changes with the European Tour and, with their financial support, agreed that the following series of tournaments will be created to provide playing opportunities in the Rolex Series and other European Tour events.
Scottish and Irish Opens
ln 2015 and 36-hole prequalifying tournament for the Scottish Open was introduced as an additional event on The PGA in Scotland Order of Merit.
The Scottish Open Qualifier has been a success and provided another significant tournament on the schedule. The 2017 qualifier at Kilmarnock (Barassie) GC in July had a prize fund of £30,000 with the leading 4 players qualifying for the Scottish Open.
I am pleased to announce that the Scottish Open Qualifier will again be in the schedule for 2018. The prize fund will increase to £35,000 and 4 spots will once again be available at the Scottish Open.
In addition to PGA members, the field will be made up of a limited number of amateur and Sponsor/European Tour invites.
Qualification for the 2018 Irish Open, at Ballyliffin Golf Club, will now be via a PGA administered prequalifying tournament and not through The PGA in Ireland Order of Merit. The prequalifying tournament will be in exactly the same format as that delivered in Scotland.
The 36-hole strokeplay tournament will offer a prize fund of €40,000 (euros) with the leading 4 players qualifying for the Irish Open.
PGA Play Offs
The number of PGA Members' spots for the BMW PGA Championship will be 4 in 2018 and qualification, as in previous years, will be via the PGA Play-Offs. This year's Play-Off take place over 54 holes at Walton Heath Golf Club, Surrey, from 30th October to 1st November 2017. The prize fund for the Play-Offs will be £25,000 compared to £15,000 last year. In addition to the BMW PGA Championship places, there will also be two places available in the British Masters and a number of Challenge Tour starts available.
The eligibility criteria for the Scottish Open qualifier, which will be replicated in Ireland, were as follows:
Eligibility for Entry
To be eligible for the Championship all competitors must satisfy at least one of the following eligibility criteria;
(i) Currently employed at a golf establishment in Scotland.
(ii) Scottish nationality by birth
(iii) Have a Father or Mother that are of Scottish nationality by birth
(iv) Have a Grandparent of Scottish nationality by birth AND be currently deemed to be of Scottish nationality under PGA membership system.
The following PGA Members and Assistants will be exempt into the Championship (Qualifier) in the following order, assuming they meet the eligibility criteria laid out in the "Eligibility for Entry" section.
(i) The 2011-16 Scottish PGA Champions.
(ii) The 2016 Scottish Young Professional Champion.
(iii) Players who competed at the 2016 Titleist PGA Play-Offs.
(iv) The leading 25 players on the 2016 PGA in Scotland Order of Merit, not already exempt (to a limit of 50th place).
(v) The leading 5 players on each of the six 2016 PGA Regional Orders of Merit, other than PGA in Scotland, not already exempt (to a limit of 50thplace).
(vi) The leading 5 players from the 2016 PGA Assistants Championship, not already exempt (must have made the 36 hole cut)
(vii) The leading 25 players from the 2017 Northern Open Championship, not already exempt (must have made the 36 hole cut)
(viii) Members of the 2015 PGA Cup team.
(ix) The leading 5 players from the 2016 PGA Professional Championship, not already exempt (must have made the 36 hole cut)
(x) The leading 5 players from the 2017 PGA in Scotland Order of Merit following the Northern Open Championship, not already exempt.
(xi) The leading 15 players (to a limit of 80th place) on the 2017 PGA Europro Tour Order of Merit at closing date.
The following non-PGA Members will be exempt, assuming they meet the eligibility criteria laid out in the " Eligibility for Entry" section.
(xii) 6 amateurs nominated by Scottish Golf Ltd.
(xiii ) A maximum of 12 sponsors invitations
The balance of the field will be decided on the closing date and will comprise of those non-exempt PGA members and assistant professionals that enter, assuming they meet the eligibility criteria laid out in the " Eligibility for Entry" section and will be ranked in the following order;
(a) by ranking within the 2017 PGA in Scotland OOM, at close of entries,then
(b) date and time of entry