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World Invitational receives massive boost by becoming tri-sanctioned European and LPGA Tour event



Galgorm Castle hosting the ISPS Handa World Invitational (Philip Magowan/PressEye)

Galgorm Castle hosting the ISPS Handa World Invitational (Philip Magowan/PressEye)

Philip Magowan

Galgorm Castle hosting the ISPS Handa World Invitational (Philip Magowan/PressEye)

The ISPS HANDA World Invitational at Galgorm Castle and Massereene Golf Clubs will become a tri-sanctioned event on the European Tour, LPGA Tour and Ladies' European Tour in 2021.

The event, which is presented by Niall Horan's Modest! Golf Management, will be held across both Co Antrim courses from July 28 - August 1 and will see 288 players - 144 men and 144 women - compete for an equal share of a $2.35million prize fund across the four days.

This announcement is a major boost for the tournament, which was only played for the first time in 2019, and its profile will be massively elevated by linking up with three of the world's leading tours at both the men's and women's level.

That makes it the first event in the northern hemisphere to be tri-sanctioned by the three tours - Australia's Vic Open has done similar in the southern hemisphere - and its unique format has been a hit with both male and female players.

The tournament sees two events run at the same time, with a male field and a female field competing at the same venues for equal prize funds, meaning fans can see leading players on all three Tours at the same time.

After being run on the European Challenge Tour in its first year, the World Invitational becomes part of the European Tour schedule for the first time, making it Northern Ireland's first ever European Tour sanctioned event.

The tournament will be staged as part of the European Tour's UK Swing in July and August, as one of a string of events being held in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

This announcement follows on from last year's Irish Open, which was held at Galgorm to rave reviews from players and organisers alike, which will certainly have played a major factor in the decision to elevate the World Invitational to a new level.

Also, the event will see Northern Ireland host its first co-sanctioned female professional tournament after it received the backing of both the LPGA Tour and Ladies' European Tour.

The event in 2019, which was won by Northern Ireland's own Stephanie Meadow and also featured Solheim Cup star Charley Hull, was not sanctioned by any Tour but still saw a star-studded field in attendance.

Now it is hoped that a world-class women's field will compete at Galgorm and Massereene this year, with ranking points on offer for both the Race to CME Globe (LPGA) and Race to Costa del Sol (LET).

The event has grown rapidly in terms of scale having debuted on the Challenge Tour as the Northern Ireland Open back in 2010, becoming one of its most popular events among players, before switching to its current format two years ago.

A new pro-only pre-qualifier event for men and women will take place ahead of the tournament in June, while Golf Ireland’s Ulster Stroke Play Championship will provide elite amateurs with the opportunity to qualify too.

Niall Horan, owner of Modest! Golf Management, said: "This is a key moment for professional golf in this part of the world, and with the help of ISPS HANDA along with both the LPGA Tour, Ladies European Tour and European Tour we have been able to take the ISPS HANDA World Invitational to a new level, which will without doubt reach new audiences around the world.

"The message behind the tournament perfectly aligns with Modest! Golf’s ethos of providing opportunities for all and ensuring golf is a game for everyone. These are vital messages which we plan to further develop with The R&A having recently announced our partnership with them.

"I have been attending European Tour events for as long as I can remember. To host a co-sanctioned LPGA Tour and European Tour event on the island of Ireland gives me so much pride and I cannot wait to return to the amazing Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort this summer, the perfect venue to host such a tournament."

Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, said: "We are excited to once again work alongside ISPS HANDA and Modest! Golf Management, both of whom share our vision of driving golf further through innovation and inclusivity.

"We thank Dr Handa for his continued support of the European Tour, and also Niall Horan and Modest! Golf Management for their hard work and determination in helping elevate this event after building strong foundations on the Challenge Tour in 2019. Galgorm Castle was a hugely popular addition to our Race to Dubai schedule in 2020 and we are all looking forward to returning there in July."

Michael Whan, LPGA Commissioner, said: "ISPS HANDA has long been a visionary in how sports can be an agent of change, and now we are excited to help them move to a whole new level and deliver a message of equality to fans in Northern Ireland with the ISPS HANDA World Invitational.

"To have the best women and men compete alongside each other at the same venue for the same purse, is exciting for fans and it showcases what is great about this global game."

Alexandra Armas, LET Chief Executive Officer, added: "Our members are delighted to be playing in this ground-breaking tournament, which marks another significant development for the LPGA-LET joint venture, and I would like to thank all of the sponsors and organisers for their support of our vision and desire to elevate European women’s golf to new heights.

"We are committed to providing more playing opportunities for Europe’s most talented golfers to thrive and flourish and to enable them to reach the highest levels in golf. This tournament offers a unique platform which will no doubt raise the game and inspire more women and girls to take up the sport."

Belfast Telegraph

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