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International field assembles for Northern Ireland Open as Challenge Tour makes big return at Galgorm Castle

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England's Richard Mansell, who will compete at this week's NI Open (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

England's Richard Mansell, who will compete at this week's NI Open (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Getty Images

England's Richard Mansell, who will compete at this week's NI Open (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

It'll be a strong field assembling at Galgorm Castle this week for the Northern Ireland Open supported by the R&A as the Challenge Tour makes its big return.

This is the first event on the Challenge Tour since the Euram Bank Open in July and, accordingly, several of the Tour's top names will be in attendance at the event as they try to move up the Order of Merit standings.

Richard Mansell (England) and Garrick Higgo (South Africa), who occupy second and fourth place in the Race to Mallorca standings respectively, will both tee it up in Ballymena for the event.

Unsurprisingly, there is a strong Northern Irish contingent at Galgorm Castle, led by local duo Michael Hoey (Galgorm) and Dermot McElroy (Ballymena), while Brendan Lawlor, who made history as the first disabled golfer to play on the European Tour last week, also tees it up.

Two Northern Irish amateurs have also been granted a place in the field, with Tom McKibbin (Holywood) and Joshua Hill (Galgorm Castle) both handed invites to compete.

In total, there are 11 Irish golfers in the field, headlined by Ruaidhri McGee and also including names such as Robin Dawson (Portmarnock), Paul McBride (The Island) and Conor Purcell (Portmarnock).

23 different nations will be represented at the NI Open, with the likes of French aces Gregory Bourdy and Julien Quesne, who have six European Tour wins between them, and 2014 Amateur Championship winner Bradley Neil among the favourites for the title.

Sky Sports analyst Robert Dinwiddie (England) is also on the entry list, with the tee times set to be released later in the week. The first round is on Thursday and runs until Sunday.

Belfast Telegraph