Lough Erne's '˜disappointment' over missing out on Irish Open
The new owners at Lough Erne Resort in Fermanagh have expressed 'extreme disappointment' that the 2017 Irish Open will not be staged at the venue.
Golf’s European Tour management are said to favour a traditional seaside links course rather than a lakeside setting.
A statement released by Lough Erne Resort on Monday said: “We are extremely disappointed that the European Tour has announced a change in its decision to hold the 2017 Irish Open Championship at Lough Erne Resort. From the day we acquired the Resort, we have been excited and committed to hosting the event, and we have never wavered from that commitment.
“We have in fact continued to make additional investments in the course and the Resort facilities, both of which are in superior condition to when the 2014 announcement was made.
“But, 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”.
The statement added: “We are disappointed not only for the Resort, but also for our staff and the good people of Co Fermanagh.
European Tour chief executive Keith Pelly 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.
“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.”
Portstewart Golf Course is understood to the most likely alternative venue.
First Minister Arlene Foster has also expressed her disappointment at the change of plan.
“I am disappointed that the European Tour have broken their public commitment to come to the Lough Erne Resort. I will work with the Lough Erne Resort to ensure that other events are attracted to it and wider Co Fermanagh in the coming months,” she said.
Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt has called for anyone with influence, including the Northern Ireland Executive, to work to ensure that the 2017 Irish Open remains in Northern Ireland.
“I know Rory McIlroy in particular has worked tirelessly, not only to get these major events to Northern Ireland, but used personal contacts to attract world class fields.
“He has created the opportunity for the Irish Open to become one of the European Tour’s hallmark events. It is only fair and fitting that Northern Ireland gets its fair share of Irish Opens.”