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Lough Erne Resort to miss out on Irish Open

By Cate McCurry

Published 12/04/2016

Rory McIlroy at the Irish Open at Royal County Down
Rory McIlroy at the Irish Open at Royal County Down

Plans to bring Ireland's biggest golfing tournament to the Lough Erne Resort next year have hit the rough after officials opted for a traditional links course.

Portstewart is now favourite to host the Irish Open tournament - hosted by Rory McIlroy's Rory Foundation.

Owners of the Lough Erne Resort say they are "extremely disappointed" at the European Tour's decision.

The Co Fermanagh five-star resort and local area will miss out on millions of pounds.

Tour officials have visited Portstewart to check its suitability to host next year's tournament, and if selected it will be the second time the north coast has staged the event in five years.

Lough Erne Resort's owners Mark Ward and Jeff Mahan said they had been "excited and committed to hosting the event".

They said: "We have in fact continued to make additional investments in the course and the resort facilities, both of which are in superior condition to when the 2014 announcement was made, but, 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.

"From the beginning of those conversations we have remained steadfast in our position not to accept this change from the tour, and we have spent the last few months trying to work with tour officials at the highest level to persuade them to keep their commitment to Lough Erne Resort and the region.

"However, despite our willingness to work with the tour in every way to convince them to maintain their commitment, they have made the decision to change the venue to a traditional links course in 2017 and at this point we have no choice but to accept it. We are disappointed not only for the resort, but also for our staff and the good people of Co Fermanagh."

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said: "During a recent visit to the Lough Erne Resort I was delighted to meet the owners and to learn more about their significant investment plans for the golf course and hotel. It is a beautiful facility with an outstanding championship golf course designed by Nick Faldo.

"While the 2017 Irish Open will not be staged there, the European Tour looks forward to working with the new ownership consortium, and I am confident that the Lough Erne Resort will host an event with the European Tour in the future."

Enniskillen hotelier Terry McCartney said it was a bitter disappointment for the county.

He added: "We are still hopeful something can come of it, perhaps the Irish Open can get past the links course idea."

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