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Lough Erne frustrated after Irish Open U-turn

By Peter Hutcheon

Lough Erne Resort has expressed its disappointment after being denied the chance to host the 2017 Irish Open.

The European Tour is understood to favour a links course to the Fermanagh venue, with Lough Erne saying it is frustrated talks did not produce a positive outcome but it is willing to stage a future Irish Open.

With the Tour determined to alternate between courses in Northern Ireland and the Republic, Portstewart has been mentioned as a possible replacement.

In April 2014, it was announced that the 2017 event would be held at Lough Erne and supported financially by the Northern Ireland government but the European Tour is changing course.

The statement from the new owners and management at Lough Erne read: "We are extremely disappointed that the European Tour has announced a change in its decision to hold the 2017 Irish Open Championship at Lough Erne Resort.

"From the day we acquired the Resort, we have been excited and committed to hosting the event.

"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. 

"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 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 County Fermanagh."

The statement added that Lough Erne was hopeful of hosting a future Irish Open.

It stated: "If and when the strategy changes, Lough Erne Resort looks forward to being first in line to host the next Irish Open that is not on a links course."

Yesterday the plug was pulled in an unequivocal statement by the Tour, although it has not as yet named an alternative course.

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said: "During a recent visit to the Lough Erne resort, I was delighted to meet with the owners and to learn more about their significant investment plans for the golf course and hotel.

"While the 2017 Irish Open will not be staged at Lough Erne, I am confident that it will host an event with the European Tour in the future.

"Details of the 2017 venue will be announced in due course, but in the meantime we are focused on ensuring that the 2016 tournament, at the K Club in County Kildare in six weeks, is a success."

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