IRISH OPEN: Ballyliffin gets Rory McIlroy’s seal of approval

TOUCH DOWN!. . . Ballyliffin Golf Club general manager John Farren welcomes Rory McIlroy to the Inishowen Links after he touched down in 2011 as US Open champion. 2406JM43
TOUCH DOWN!. . . Ballyliffin Golf Club general manager John Farren welcomes Rory McIlroy to the Inishowen Links after he touched down in 2011 as US Open champion. 2406JM43

RORY McILROY has expressed his delight after it was announced Inishowen’s iconic links course, Ballyliffin Golf Club, will host the 2018 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

It’s understood the four-times major winner has been instrumental in bringing the event to Ballyliffin and when speaking to the club’s general manager, John Farren, on Sunday, McIlroy gave his seal of approval as he’s set to continue his longstanding association with the progressive club.

An honorary member of Ballyliffin since 2007, McIlory first played the course as a 15 years-old and actually opened the Old Links refurbishment alongside Nick Faldo in 2006.

Described as a ‘loyal friend’ of the club, he touched down at the picturesque Inishowen town by helicopter shortly after winning the US Open in 2011 for a magazine fashion shoot.

The Irish Open is one of the most historic events on the European Tour, raised to a new level in recent times thanks to the support of McIlroy’s ‘Rory Foundation.’

“Rory played there as a teenager and it was evident at that stage that he was going to be very, very special,” said Mr Farren. “Both Rory and his father came for several years to play in our Scratch Cup and he opened the Old Links with Nick Faldo in 2006 when Faldo had revamped the course.

“We made him an honorary member shortly afterwards, before he turned professional, so it’s a longstanding association with Ballyliffin and he’s been a very loyal friend to the club. I was speaking to him yesterday and he’s absolutely delighted having been instrumental in bringing the event to Inishowen and we’re looking forward to making it the biggest and best Irish Open ever.”

Newly crowned Irish Open champion, Jon Rahm, has vowed to return to defend his title while former Ryder Cup captain, Paul McGinley, reckons Ballyliffin is ‘a golf course which would be very worthy of staging an Irish Open’.

And Mr Farren revealed Ballyliffin has already received invitations from some of the top US professionals who have also expressed their interest to McIlroy since the announcement - an early indicator that the 2018 event is set to be ‘the biggest and best yet,’ particularly given that it takes place during a Ryder Cup year.

“We want to make it as smooth as possible; to make it as successful as possible because, if we do it right then I’m confident we can get it back and I’m confident our Glashedy Links will stand up to the test to host the best golfers in the world.

Pictured at the announcement of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open 2018 Hosted by the Rory Foundation are John Tracey - Chief Executive of Sport Ireland, Colm McLoughlin - Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of  Dubai Duty Free, Keith Pelley - Chief Executive of the European Tour, Barry Funston - Chief Executive of the Rory Foundation and John Ferran - General Manager Ballyliffin Golf Club.

Pictured at the announcement of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open 2018 Hosted by the Rory Foundation are John Tracey - Chief Executive of Sport Ireland, Colm McLoughlin - Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, Keith Pelley - Chief Executive of the European Tour, Barry Funston - Chief Executive of the Rory Foundation and John Ferran - General Manager Ballyliffin Golf Club.

“Next year the event will be even more significant as it’s a Ryder Cup year and points and prizemoney will be very important for the main guys to get on the Ryder Cup teams.

“So we believe next year it will be an even bigger event and we’re already getting invitations from some of the US players who will be big catches in terms of spectator interest. They have indicated to Rory and his team they will be making the trip to Ballyliffin in 2018.”

A regular championship venue, Ballyliffin has played host to the North West of Ireland Open in 2002, a dual ranking event on the European Tour and Challenge Tour, The European Senior Tour also visited in 2008.

But landing the Irish Open is an incredible ‘vote of confidence’ by the European Tour and Mr Farren is excited about showcasing the course to a worldwide audience.

The tour has been very impressed with the amount of space we have here and it’s perfect for the staging of the event.

John Farren

“Both our courses are in excellent shape and regarded among the best in the world. Obviously getting an event of this magnitude for Donegal and Derry is fabulous for the entire North West and it will have significant repercussions long term for the region.

“The roads to this region have been shut for far too long and finally we get the opportunity to showcase what we have here - not just in terms of golf but with the leisure industry and the beauty of the natural landscape of the area to almost 500 million homes worldwide and to live television pictures.

“The tour has been very impressed with the amount of space we have here and it’s perfect for the staging of the event.

“In fact, I believe Derry will be one of the main beneficiaries and accommodation in the city will be highly sought after by not only the players, but by the European Tour officials and spectators. It’s a great boost for the entire North West region,” conluded Mr. Farren.