The Northern Ireland Open has returned to the golf calendar as part of the European Challenge Tour's revised 2020 schedule.
The event, played at Galgorm Castle, had been rebranded as the ISPS Handa World Invitational last year and for the first time combined men's and women's events as part of the Challenge Tour and Women's European Tour rota.
This year, it had been expected that it would make the step up to the men's European Tour but, hampered by the coronavirus pandemic, it will now be played once again as the Northern Ireland Open on the Challenge Tour from September 3-6.
The event slots into the calendar a week before the Irish Challenge, to be played at an as yet unconfirmed venue, and fits in with the Tour's strategy of playing events in regional clusters, such as the six-event UK-swing set to tee off on the European Tour next week.
The NI Open will have a €200,000 prize fund and will be supported by The R&A COVID-19 Support Fund, a £7million package to help golf deal with the impact of the global pandemic.
“The R&A is dedicated to supporting golf and its additional support this year has been crucial in helping us to stage this event," said Jamie Hodges, Head of the Challenge Tour.
“Our thanks also go to Galgorm Castle, a venue that our members know well and always enjoy playing, and to Tourism Northern Ireland and Mid & East Antrim Borough Council for their valued support.
“While there will be no formal graduation to the European Tour this year, adding events like this to the Road to Mallorca will provide playing opportunities and experience for the stars of the future, and is hugely important for our members in the current circumstances.”
Galgorm Castle has hosted a Challenge Tour event every season since 2013, when the Northern Ireland Open was first staged.
Previous winners include New Zealander Ryan Fox and Sweden's Joakim Lagergren, who both went on to win on the European Tour.
"We are delighted that golf is returning to Galgorm Castle and Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Open supported by The R&A is a real positive for the area," said Gary Henry, Managing Director of Galgorm Castle.
"We are operating within stringent government guidelines for an event that will help kickstart the tourism economy and generate significant bed nights and spend by bringing players, staff and media to the local area. TV coverage of the event will enhance the message that Mid & East Antrim and Northern Ireland is open for business.”
Following the suspension of the season in February, the Challenge Tour re-started with the first of two dual ranking events in Austria last week – the Austrian Open, won by Scotland’s Marc Warren, followed by the Euram Bank Open.
The Northern Ireland Open supported by The R&A is the next scheduled event from September 3-6, with details of further events from September through to the end of the season still to be confirmed in due course.