The €170,000 Northern Ireland Open Challenge will have two title sponsors and up to 13 minor backers when the action gets underway at Galgorm Castle from August 29 to September 1.
Clannah Natural Energy and XJET are the main backers as top class golf returns to Northern Ireland hoping to ride the wave of enthusiasm created by last year’s hugely successful Irish Open staging at Royal Portrush.
Tourism Minister Arlene Foster said: “Following the tremendous success of the Irish Open last year, the tournament is a great boost to the drive to build on the growing interest in our golf product which has been generated by the success of our home-grown players including Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and, of course, tournament ambassador, Michael Hoey.” Clannah Natural Energy is the vision of Belfast native Susan Morrice, whose excels in the oil and ener gy industry from her base in the United States.
Morrice set up Clannah in Northern Ireland and also had good reason to get involved with the Galgorm event.
She said: “We are delighted that Clannah and XJET are participating in the Challenge Tour event at Galgorm in special honour of Eric and Tom Morrice, (Susan’s father and uncle) who loved the game of golf.
Morrice’s cousin Josh Stewart is the brainchild behind XJET, the number one private aviation company in the United States. In a very competitive industry, Stewart, also from Belfast, was named one of Colorado’s most influential young professionals with his seven star service and facilities for private jet owners.
The Challenge Tour event is further bolstered by support closer to home as the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Ballymena Borough Council, Tourism Ireland, Ulster Bank, Costcutter, Blackstar Sports, BS Holdings among many others are supporting the Galgorm driven showpiece.
The event is set to be worth over £600,000 (€703,000) in direct income to the local economy as well as boasting a comprehensive PR campaign with an anticipated media value of over £2 million (€2.34m).
The Galgorm event also has four-time European Tour winner Michael Hoey as the tournament’s ambassador, while Lurgan based Challenge Tour player Gareth Shaw is named as the venue’s new touring professional.
“I think after the success of the Irish Open last year, it’s important we have another strong tournament,” said Hoey. “It promises to be a great tournament and I know the organisers at Galgorm are hoping to attract somewhere in the region of 30,000 spectators over the week.”
Shaw, 27, comes into the season after winning the 2012 order of merit on the Alps Tour and hopes to make his mark on the Challenge Tour.
Mark Aspland of the European Tour said: “The tournament at Galgorm will provide the support for the next generation of Irish professionals aspiring to be one of the Nations next great players and also provides many experienced players the opportunities to re-establish themselves within European golf.”
Galgorm Castle’s Christopher Brooke added: “This will be another excellent opportunity to witness some of the stars of the fairways as they compete in the £145,000 (€170,000) event. None of this would have been possible without the help and support of partners and sponsors all of which can be found on the event website www.niopen.co.uk.
“We look forward to what promises to be another great summer of Irish golf and of course welcoming all to the Northern Ireland Open Challenge 2013 at the end of August.”
Photo:(Top to Bottom, l-r) Richard Stratton (Alpha Newspaper Group), Aaron Klewcheuk (Ballyprint.com), Jonathan Verner (Costcutter), Paul Thompson (Just Treats Golf), John Shortt (Golf Digest Ireland), Brian Hood (BS Holdings), Ian Fitzpatrick (Blackstar Sports), Neil Cooke (Ulster Bank), Rebecca Laird (Laird Grass Machinery), John McMahon (Johnsons Law), Draven McConville (Gravity), Kitty Crawford (XJET), Morris Crawford (XJET), Melvyn Ennis (Clannah Natural Energy), Lisa Robinson (Causeway Coast & Glens), Aidan Donnelly (Ballymena Borough Council). Paul Frew MLA, Mark Aspland (European Tour), Alison Beggs (Lady Captain), Christopher Brooke (Galgorm Castle), Arlene Foster MLA, Ivan McCappin (Captain), Beth Swindlehurst (Galgorm Resort & Spa), Gareth Shaw (Touring Professional).