Now that the dust has settled on an exhilarating Irish Open at Royal County Down, attentions turn to another international golf tournament when the Northern Ireland Open, in association with SPHERE Global and Ulster Bank, takes place at Galgorm Castle Golf Club from August 6-9.
The NI Open is one of the standout tournaments on the European Challenge Tour schedule and enjoys an enviable date that doesn’t clash with a main European Tour event as the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational takes place in Akron, Ohio the same week.
It means many of the leading players who teed it up at Royal County Down will return to the province to compete at the Ballymena venue in what promises to be another festival of golf and more for all the family.
“This is our third year of staging the NI Open and every year we have grown and developed the event to become one of the great sporting occasions of the year,” explained Gary Henry, NI Open Tournament Director and Director Galgorm Castle.
“The NI Open is the only international golf tournament played annually in Northern Ireland and with such great support from our sponsors we have ambitions of becoming a co-sanctioned event in the future and ensuring the best players in Europe and beyond keep coming back to Northern Ireland.”
Former European Tour winners Simon Thornton and Damien McGrane are just two of the many homegrown players who have stated their intention to compete at Galgorm. Thornton, playing at his home course at Royal County Down, was in contention at the Irish Open for a time before being blown off course like so many others.
Five-time European Tour winner Michael Hoey will also compete at Galgorm in his role as Tournament Ambassador. “Without question this is one of the best tournaments on the European Challenge Tour,” said the 36-year-old.
Leading players from the Challenge Tour will be on show such as Spain’s Nacho Elvira, who tops the standings with two wins under his belt and a third will automatically secure his card for the main European Tour. Players like England’s Max Orrin, Rhys Davies from Wales and Ireland’s high-flying Ruaidhri McGee will all be chasing the €27,200 top prize won by Sweden’s Joakim Lagergren in 2014.
Last year record crowds of over 34,000 came through the gates and similar numbers are anticipated again, especially with free entry and so much to do away from the fairways. The popular Food Festival will set up once more at the estate’s castle plus free kids coaching sessions and other activities will take place in the tented village.