Fans gear up for Northern Ireland Open as superstar Niall Horan joins the fun

Young fans get pictures of Niall Horan arriving on the first tee at Galgorm

Young fans get pictures of Niall Horan arriving on the first tee at Galgorm

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One Direction star Niall Horan helped officially open the Fun Golf Area at Galgorm Castle where this week’s Tayto Northern Ireland Open gets under way on Thursday.

The Fun Golf Area is another exciting new development at Galgorm Castle where golfers of all abilities can try their hand at the game through the brand new six-hole short course and Himalayas putting green, a replica of the iconic attraction at St Andrews, the Home of Golf in Scotland.

NI Open ambassador Michael Hoey hit the opening tee shot at the Fun Golf Area and was then challenged to a ‘Beat the Pro’ competition by Economy Minister Simon Hamilton MLA.

“The Fun Golf Area is a great addition to Galgorm Castle and an excellent way to introduce young people to the sport. This new family friendly initiative, combined with the new Galgorm CastleTrails, will extend the tourism offering helping to attract visitors to the Ballymena area to try their hand at golf while enjoying the beautiful surroundings of the Castle,” said the Minister.

“I’ve no doubt that the Fun Golf Area will be a big draw to the many families who will visit the Northern Ireland Open this weekend. Nearly 40,000 visitors attended the 2015 event.

“I’m sure this year’s event will once again prove to be just as popular in attracting big crowds coming to see the established and up and coming golfing stars of the future.”

Hoey’s focus this week will be on finally making the cut at the Challenge Tour event.

The five-time tour winner has missed out on the last three occasions but is hoping the advice and support of Castlerock caddy Ryan McGuigan can make all the difference.

“I have struggled this season and it’s been down to poor concentration, being clumsy around the greens,” said Hoey.

“It’s not like I was hitting it sideways off the tee or anything. You have to be sharp – especially with your short game – to be competitive out here.

“If you can hold a few putts it gives you the momentum, and that’s what it’s all about.

“But the field this year is very strong. Two weeks ago two players shot 59s in one round – that’s 13 under par. That’s unbelievably good on this tour.”

This week’s NI Open is free to enter with the European Challenge Tour event getting under way from July 28-31.