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Hoey's Open bid set to give economy boost

By Frank Brownlow

Michael Hoey will lead the home challenge at the Northern Ireland Open – which has attracted some truly global sponsors with local links and is set to give the economy a huge boost.

Clannah Natural Energy and XJET will be title sponsors of the prestigious Challenge Tour event, which offers £145,000 in prize money and will be staged at Galgorm Castle in Ballymena from August 29 to September 1.

The event is set to be worth over £600,000 in direct income to the local economy as well as boasting a comprehensive PR campaign with an anticipated media value of over £2,000,000.

Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke have landed four majors between them in recent years, while Hoey has won four times on the European Tour and is the tournament's ambassador. Gareth Shaw is Galgorm's new touring professional.

"I think after the success of the Irish Open (at Royal Portrush) last year, it's important we have another strong tournament," said Hoey.

"It promises to be a great tournament and I know the organisers are hoping to attract somewhere in the region of 30,000 spectators over the week."

Tourism Minister Arlene Foster is delighted to see the local economy receiving such a boost.

"Not only will it be a great event for spectators, it will also provide opportunities for the next generation of players to follow in the footsteps of our local superstars," said the Minister.

"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."

The European Tour's Mark Aspland added: "The tournament will provide the support for the next generation of Irish professionals aspiring to be one of the next great players and also provides experienced players with the opportunities to re-establish themselves within European golf."

Galgorm Castle owner Christopher Brooke said: "This will be another excellent opportunity to witness some of the stars of the fairways."

The event is further bolstered by support from the NI Tourist Board, Ballymena Borough Council, Tourism Ireland, Ulster Bank, Costcutter, Blackstar Sports and BS Holdings.

Belfast Telegraph

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