Paul McGinley wants to take the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open to Lahinch when he plays host to the $7 million Rolex Series event next year.
The Dubliner (51) has recommended the historic Co Clare links to the European Tour, which will visit the venue in mid-March to study the feasibility of hosting one of golf’s biggest events there.
The 2014 Ryder Cup skipper claimed the South of Ireland title at Lahinch in 1991 and having revealed earlier this month that it is “imperative”, having spoken to the Tour and key players, that the 2019 Irish Open is held on the links course with The Open taking place at Royal Portrush a fortnight later, the wheels have now been set in motion.
Tournament Director Simon Alliss is likely to form part of the visiting party, and while another visit to County Sligo’s famed Rosses Point links, which is also seeking the Irish Open to coincide with its 125th-anniversary celebrations in 2019, is also likely, McGinley’s love of Lahinch could be key.
“I am very proud to be a South of Ireland champion,” McGinley told a special gathering of twenty-three South of Ireland champions held at Lahinch on 31 July last year as part of the club’s 125th-anniversary celebrations.
“Winning in 1991 was very important in my career because without winning the South of Ireland, I wouldn’t have made the Walker Cup team that year and without making the Walker Cup team, I wouldn't have gone to the tour school and without going to Tour School, I wouldn't have been on Tour that year.
“So it all evolved from my success here in Lahinch.”
The venue also holds special memories for former South of Ireland champions Darren Clarke (champion in 1994) and Graeme McDowell (2000), and for Pádraig Harrington, who lost his second South of Ireland final in a row in 1995 but returned later that season to win the Irish Close there.
The Old Course at Lahinch was first laid out by Old Tom Morris in 1894 and redesigned in 1926 by Dr Alister MacKenzie, who would go on to create of Augusta National.
The club, which will host the men’s Home Internationals next year and the Arnold Palmer Cup in 2020, hosted the Irish Professional Championship in 1961 when Christy O’Connor Snr won the third of his ten titles with a 280 aggregate.
Dr Martin Hawtree significantly enhanced the course in 1999, and last year, the club opened a state-of-the-art short game practice facility.
Rory McIroy will host the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open for the fourth time at Ballyliffin from July 5-8 this year before handing over the hosting duties to McGinley in 2019.
Major winners Pádraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell will then take over from 2020, mimicking the rotating host format made popular by the British Masters.