Disappointed Lough Erne Resort owners ‘have to accept’ no Irish Open decision

Lough Erne Resort
Lough Erne Resort

After months of rumour and speculation, the European Tour announced on Monday that Lough Erne Resort will not host the 2017 Irish Open.

In a statement European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley said: “During a recent visit to the Lough Erne Resort, I was delighted to meet with the owners and to learn more about their significant investment plans for the golf course and hotel.

"It is a beautiful facility with an outstanding championship golf course designed by Sir Nick Faldo.

"While the 2017 Irish Open will not be staged at Lough Erne, the European Tour looks forward to working with the new ownership consortium, and I am confident that the Lough Erne Resort will host an event with the European Tour in the future.

“Details of the 2017 venue will be announced in due course, but in the meantime we are solely focused on ensuring that the 2016 tournament, which will be staged at The K Club in six weeks’ time, is a great success.”

Portstewart GC is the front runner to step in and host the Irish Open, should the event return to Northern Ireland next year.

Club Secretary Manager Michael Moss said; “The European Tour came to us last July or August and did their assessments. Obviously we would be delighted to host the championships."

The owners of Lough Erne expressed their 'extreme disappointment' at the move on Monday night.

In a statement they revealed that; "over the last several months, senior tour officials began telling us that European Tour management was considering a ‘traditional links course strategy’ for future Irish Opens, and because of that new strategy there had been indications that the 2017 date at Lough Erne might be in jeopardy."

The statement added; "We have spent the last few months trying to work with Tour officials at the highest level to persuade them to keep their commitment to Lough Erne Resort and the region.

"However, despite our willingness to work with the Tour in every way to convince them to maintain their commitment, they have made the decision to change the venue to a traditional links course in 2017 and at this point we have no choice but to accept it."

Tourism NI received news of the decision to move the event from Lough Erne over the weekend.

A spokesperson stated; "We have requested an urgent meeting with the European Tour to discuss options open to the Executive following the announcement, and where this decision leaves plans for the return of the Irish Open to Northern Ireland which is a matter of contractual agreement."