Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

One Direction star on the lookout for the next Rory McIlroy

Niall Horan is sponsoring the NI Open and looking for new golfing talent

Niall Horan just can’t get enough of Northern Ireland. The One Direction star is coming back to the province this August for the Northern Ireland Open golf tournament, presented by Modest! Golf.

“I love the courses in Northern Ireland,” Niall told Sunday Life.

“Royal County Down and Portrush are two of the best courses in the world. I’ve been fortunate enough to play Galgorm and Malone too, which are both great parkland courses.

“I also love staying at the Galgorm Castle Resort - they always make us feel welcome so it’s set to be a great week.”

One Direction called a break last year following a hectic On The Road Again tour. After the band put on almost 80 concerts in less than nine months, Niall enjoyed a well-earned break, working on his own music and going travelling.

During the Brit Awards last month, Niall was in the studio working on his solo album, even missing picking up his gong for Best Video Of The Year.

He has also put a lot of hard work into his role as director of Modest! Golf, which has seen him turn what started out as a hobby into a full-time job.

“It’s small steps, but it’s all going well,” said the 23-year-old from Mullingar, Co Westmeath.

“We are only a new company still but we have signed three great players with fantastic amateur careers and we feel we can help them in the professional game.”

Having signed Italian golfer Guido Migliozzi and South Africans Thriston Lawrence and Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Niall says the sports management company is “absolutely” hoping to add to their stable with some Northern Irish talent.

“Northern Ireland and Ireland have produced and will continue to produce some of the best golfing talent in the world,” said the This Town singer, who is close friends with our own world number two golfer Rory McIlroy.

“It’s only a matter of time.”

Following the success of last year’s Northern Ireland Open at Galgorm — where Modest! Golf were the official golf management partner — Niall will be back in Co Antrim for this year’s event, this time with a bigger role as presenting sponsor.

Last year, fans came out in force to see him at the Pro-Am event. He was joined by other famous names like Northern Ireland goalkeeping legend Pat Jennings and ex-Ulster Rugby stars Stephen Ferris and Paddy Wallace, as well as 14-year-old Newtownabbey rising golf star Tom McKibbin (left, with Niall).

The 2017 tournament will embrace the European Tour’s vision of introducing fresh ideas with the NI Open Super Sunday. There will be more excitement on the final day of play due to a new knock-out, stroke-play format which will ensure the action continues until the last hole.

“It will be fun for the competitors and will make great viewing for the spectators,” added Niall, who started playing more golf on his breaks while on tour with One Direction.

“I would also like to thank the Challenge Tour for embracing the new format Shootout Sunday.”

Fellow Modest! Golf director Mark McDonnell said: “We are delighted to return to Galgorm, this time as presenting sponsor.

“Northern Ireland is a country that continues to produce great talent and we are excited to return and bring a brand new format.”

The Northern Ireland Open will take place at Galgorm Castle from August 10-13, with 156 players set to tee off in one of the Challenge Tour’s biggest events.

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