Lough Erne could miss out on 2017 Irish Open

Lough Erne was due to host the Irish Open in 2017 - but now that could be in doubt
Lough Erne was due to host the Irish Open in 2017 - but now that could be in doubt

Fermanagh’s Lough Erne Resort could miss out on staging next year’s Irish Open.

European Tour official, Antonia Beggs, insisted on Thursday that “no definitive decision either way” had been taken on a venue for 2017.

Ms Beggs, who was announcing plans for this year’s Irish Open at the K Club in Kildare added:“There are lots of discussions going on behind the scenes and I can’t confirm either way because that is a strategic decision.”

Back in April 2014 there was much fanfare as the European Tour, the Northern Ireland Executive and Tourism NI unveiled a deal to bring the event to Northern Ireland in 2015 (Royal County Down) and 2017 (Lough Erne Resort).

First Minister Arlene Foster – the then Enterprise, Trade and Investment minister – said at the time: “Royal County Down is a spectacular course and the spectacular scenery around the coast will provide a wonderful backdrop for coverage of next year’s tournament. I very much welcome The European Tour’s decision to stage the Irish Open at Lough Erne in three years’ time.”

In the intervening period however, new stakeholders have come on board in the shape of sponsor Dubai Duty Free and the Rory Foundation while there has also been a change at the top of the European Tour with Keith Pelley replacing George O’Grady as CEO.

Ms Beggs added: “Keith has some really definitive ideas about strategy for the European Tour as a whole.

“I’m not going to speak on his behalf but he has big, big ideas about what he wants to do and the Irish Open is a key part of that strategy because it is one of the biggest tournaments.”

Built in 2007 the Lough Erne Resort was brought to the world’s attention when it successfully hosted the G8 Summit in 2013.

The championship course was designed by six-time major champion, Sir Nick Faldo.

Last year the resort was bought by a U.S based consortium.

If Lough Erne loses out in 2017, the tournament could return to a links course with the likes of Portstewart and Dublin’s Portmarnock believed to be under consideration but the defacto rotation policy between North and South is no longer set in stone.

“I can’t even comment on that, there’s lot to be discussed,” added Ms Beggs.

“I wouldn’t say it is a doubt but everything is being discussed and looked at.”

The one definite to emerge from Thursday’s media conference is Rory McIlroy’s commitment to the tournament via his Rory Foundation.

Rory has announced initiatives to encourage club golfers from across Ireland to attend the K Club for the event which will take place from May 19-22.