NEXT year’s Irish Open will not now be staged at the Lough Erne Resort, just outside Enniskillen.
There have been doubts since January this year that the Sir Nick Faldo designed course may not stage the event and this was confirmed by the European Tour on Monday morning.
Now Portstewart, a links course looks the likely alternative to host the tournament, hosted by Rory McIlroy’s Foundation.
The Lough Erne Resort said it was extremely disappointed about the change in venue.
“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,” said a statement.
It added that the Resort had continued to make additional investments in the course and the Resort facilities were in superior condition to when the 2014 announcement was made in April 2014. “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, and because of that new strategy there had been indications that the 2017 date at Lough Erne might be in jeopardy.”
However, despite the Resort’s efforts to convince the European Tour of their commitment, the Resort says it has now no choice but to accept their decision.
“We are disappointed not only for the Resort, but also for our staff and the good people of Fermanagh but the Resort’s ownership group remains committed to working with tour officials towards bringing a future Irish Open or an equivalent event to Lough Erne Resort.”
The decision that the Lough Erne Resort will not host next year’s Irish Open “doesn’t seem very honourable,” according to UUP councillor Alex Baird.
“Really, people in Fermanagh, when they enter a commitment to do something they follow it through. I am bitterly disappointed that they have decided to make a change.
“That doesn’t seem very honourable,” said Mr Baird.
Independent councillor Raymond Farrell reacted saying, “This is a real blow to everyone who was really looking forward to what would have been a fantastic occasion, not only for the Lough Erne Resort but Fermanagh. Excitement, hopes and possibilities have been shattered and I really think a resort that was good enough to host the G8 should and could have been allowed as they promised, to host this fantastic golfing spectacle. I think the people of the area deserve answers as to why we have been left so disappointed.”
Ulster Unionist Assembly candidates, Alastair Patterson and Rosemary Barton have highlighted their disappointment at the decision.
Mr Patterson called for an immediate explanation as to why the Irish Open was not going to be held at the Lough Erne.
“This is a massive blow for Fermanagh, to have the community hopes dashed and the economy of the area feeling the depression is certainly a bad news story.
Former Chairman of Fermanagh Lakeland Tourism, Ms Barton said, “This would have been a prime opportunity to boost tourism to Fermanagh and also showcase our wonderful county throughout Europe, due to the expansive television coverage. The Irish Open is one of the highlights on the European Golfing Tour, and it is a major disappointment, not only for the golfing fraternity, but also the local economy of Fermanagh.
“The Department of Trade Enterprise and Investment have questions to answer. The West has been let down once again. DETI’s Tourism Strategy has failed in this case.”
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Posted: 6:30 pm April 13, 2016