Londonderry firm backing Northern Ireland Open

NORTHERN IRELAND OPEN. . . .Golfer Michael Hoey pictured on Thursday launching the Northern Ireland Open golf tournament at Sphere Global, Campsie, Londonderry. Included in photo are Sean McNicholl, Managing Director, Sphere Global and Neil Cooke, Ulster Bank, sponsors.' Photo by Jim McCafferty
NORTHERN IRELAND OPEN. . . .Golfer Michael Hoey pictured on Thursday launching the Northern Ireland Open golf tournament at Sphere Global, Campsie, Londonderry. Included in photo are Sean McNicholl, Managing Director, Sphere Global and Neil Cooke, Ulster Bank, sponsors.' Photo by Jim McCafferty

Campsey firm Sphere Global has been named as a new sponsor of the increasingly popular Northern Ireland Open.

Tournament host Michael Hoey visited the firm to launch this year’s Challenge Tour event at Galgorm Castle.

And the European Tour pro - who has five victories to his name - has an obvious ambition when he returns to play this August.

“It would be nice to make the cut,” he said.

“The last two years I haven;t played anything like as well as I can and that’s meant an early exit.

“But it just goes to show how high the standard is these days on the Challenge Tour.

“This year definitely I want to not just make the cut, but be in the mix on the Sunday.”

Galgorm hope the event, which began life six years ago as a Euro Pro tournament, can eventually go on to become part of the main european Tour.

Managing director Gary Henry said at the launch that attracting local sponsorship was a core part of those plans.

“There are a lot of key elements in staging an event like the Northern Ireland Open, but attracting sponsorship is absolutely key,” he said.

“We’re delighted to welcome Sphere Global on board to join Ulster Bank who have supported the event from the start.”

Over 34,000 people from all over Northern Ireland and beyond, attended the event at the Ballymena venue last year making it by far the most successful tournament in terms of spectators on the Challenge Tour. The attendance levels put most European Tour events to shame.

Enterprise Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster said: “Through the ground-breaking success of its home grown players and its magnificent world-class courses, Northern Ireland can rightly claim that it is at the forefront of golf.

“I fully appreciate that events such as the Northern Ireland Open simply would not happen without the commitment, hard work and dedication of Tourism NI, sponsors, partners and volunteers.

“Last year the Galgorm showpiece broke all records for attendance for any European Challenge Tour event and I have no doubt that this year will also be another golfing sensation.

“I would like to thank title sponsors Sphere Global and Ulster Bank for their support in helping to ensure the continues success of this event.”

This year the tournament is being held earlier in the summer, from August 6-9, during the school holidays which should further boost attendances.

It will be a bumper festival of golf in Northern Ireland this summer with the Irish Open at Royal Country Down in the last week of May with one of the best fields assembled for a European Tour event for years with the inclusion of Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia Ernie Els and, of course, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.

Tickets for this year’s Northern Ireland Open remain free to the public.

Entry is now open for registration at niopen.co.uk