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Niall Horan keen to push World Invitational to become 'bigger event for more money' in 2020

 

Unique challenge: Niall Horan (left) with the victorious Stephanie Meadow and Jack Senior
Unique challenge: Niall Horan (left) with the victorious Stephanie Meadow and Jack Senior
Irish triumphs: Bridgestone merit award winner Cormac Sharvin (centre) with Leona Maguire, who finished five-under
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Niall Horan says plans are already in place for next year's ISPS Handa World Invitational after the success of last week's tournament at Galgorm Castle and Massereene Golf Clubs.

The event, which saw men and women compete alongside each other in two separate tournaments for equal prize money for the first time in Europe, went down a storm.

An innovative new format saw the men's and women's groups staggered for the final two days, with large crowds turning out despite the abhorrent weather to follow the final few groups.

It was even more of a success from a local perspective as the inaugural women's tournament was won by Jordanstown's own Stephanie Meadow, who picked up her second professional title by beating Solheim Cup star Charley Hull by one shot.

The men's event, which was part of the Challenge Tour, was won by England's Jack Senior in a thrilling play-off against Matthew Baldwin.

Both players walked away with $40,000 for winning the event, which Horan is confident will return next year in the same format after he received nothing but positive reviews from the players.

"I would like to think so, yeah," said Horan, whose management company Modest! Golf presented the event.

"This is the first of its kind in Europe, as we've been saying all week, and it's really good to finally have it out there, it felt really natural. Even the idea of having a female group followed by a male group was just amazing.

"It feels like a European Tour event when you're out there and it's just great to be a part of an event like this.

"I know the girls had a lot of fun this week and hopefully they'll come back again."

The event has grown year on year since its first running as the Northern Ireland Open back in 2013 and, as such, the question now is how can the organisers build on what was a hugely successful first running of the World Invitational in its current format.

An obvious first step would be to try and boost the women's field by affiliating their side of the event with one of the tours which, in turn, would hopefully attract more sponsors and boost the prize fund.

While Horan admits he has had some ideas about next year already, the former One Direction singer says they'll be patient with making any big changes to an event which ran so smoothly despite being put together at such short notice.

"As you're going through it, you're always thinking about how you can make things better as the week goes on, how do you condense things," added Horan.

"We'll sit down after the tournament in the coming weeks and really kick it on and have some planning time, rather than starting a bit later - up until eight months ago this was just going to be a Challenge Tour event, but things transpired and it was transformed into the World Invitational.

"Now people around the world are watching this and hopefully we can kick on and make this into an even bigger event for more money."

• Irish trio Conor Purcell (Portmarnock), Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) and James Sugrue (Mallow) have been named in the GB&I team for next month's Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool.

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