Belfast Telegraph

New-look NI Open trophy inspired by greatest landmarks

 

By Adam McKendry

It was hit TV series Game of Thrones that put Northern Ireland's Dark Hedges on the map, but now the iconic landmark will have a new role to play in the sporting world.

As golf's Northern Ireland Open undergoes a revolutionary new format change, so has the trophy for the winner - it has been remade for this year.

Now resembling a bowl, the winner of the tournament will receive a trophy made from the wood of some of the trees that make up the mysterious tunnel-like Dark Hedges.

The new trophy also celebrates some of Northern Ireland's other great landmarks, with images of Slemish mountains, the Glens of Antrim and the Giant's Causeway engraved on the edges.

It's a new design for what is almost an all-new tournament as the Challenge Tour promotes its new Shootout Sunday format at Galgorm Castle next month.

The idea for the new trophy was the brainchild of PerformanceACTIVE founder and chief executive Fergus Wallace, who came up with the plan when some of the trees were uprooted by Storm Gertrude in January 2016.

The new design was brought to life by local wood tuner Gerard Grey, who had worked with the Dark Hedges in the past and harvested wood from the trees that fell.

Wallace said: "I gave myself the challenge of coming up with a trophy design that reflected the ethos and character of Northern Ireland.

"I also wanted the design to be innovative and different to reflect the new format created by the European Tour and others for this event.

"I approached Gerard with a design concept to produce something unique, inspiring and beautiful, something that was made in Northern Ireland.

"It needed to be produced locally with features that reflect many of the positive characteristics of Northern Ireland and showcase some of the attractions that draws overseas tourists to these shores every year.

"What has been created is a beautiful presentation bowl made of the beeches from the Dark Hedges."

New Zealander Ryan Fox will be the man most desperate to get his hands on the new trophy as he attempts to defend his title at Galgorm Castle.

Fox shot a final round 62 at Galgorm last year to secure the title, while at the same time setting a new course record.

The son of former All Black rugby player Grant Fox, the 30-year-old is in great form having just secured a place at next week's Open Championship thanks to his tied-fourth finish at last week's Irish Open.

Also competing will be local hopeful Michael Hoey, who himself is coming off a strong finish of tied-30th at Portstewart last week.

The Belfast man, who is also Tournament Ambassador, says it would be a great honour to win the event, and be the first to take home the new trophy.

"The NI Open trophy bowl commissioned by Fergus is a wonderful piece. It would be great to get my hands on this in a few week's time at Galgorm and add my name to the list of NI Open champions," Hoey said.

This year's Northern Ireland Open, which is presented by Modest Golf!, will be played at Galgorm Castle Golf Club in Ballymena from August 10-13.

PerformanceACTIVE are the official technology partner of the Northern Ireland Open, and are currently working on the latest edition of the NI Open app.

Belfast Telegraph

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