independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Irish Open to return to Fota but search for sponsor continues

Stenson: European accolade
Stenson: European accolade

FOTA ISLAND will host next June's Irish Open. The five-star Cork resort will stage Irish golf's premier event for the third time from June 19 to 22, the week after the US Open.

Back-to-back Irish Opens were played at Fota in 2001 and '02. Since then, the venue has changed hands twice, most recently last August when the Chinese hotel group, Kang Family Worldwide, bought it for a bargain €21m from NAMA.

While the venue for 2014 has been finalised, the search for a title sponsor must continue, though Tour officials say they're satisfied to press ahead with the support of partners like Heineken, BMW, Rolex and Emirates.

While crowds next summer are unlikely to match mind-blowing attendances at Royal Portrush in 2012, the Cork public is likely to support the event with as much pride and enthusiasm as a decade ago, ensuring the 2014 Irish Open will be a big hit at the box office.

Especially with Ireland's Major champions, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke, on show.

This year's hosts, Carton House, and Mount Juliet were among premier venues considered but the package offered by Fota's new owners, including, sources suggest, a handsome site fee, won the day.

Meanwhile, Brian Casey struck first blood as a pro yesterday as he wrapped up a five-stroke victory in the Alps Tour Q-School at the La Cala resort on Spain's Costa del Sol.

Navan native Casey (22), who turned professional in the autumn, swept to 14-under for the three rounds with a sweet closing 67 on the resort's Asia Course.

"It's my first ever card so I am actually delighted about that. I've got so much to play for next year that's for sure. It's giving me a sense of security. I like to be a part of the Alps Tour," said the Headfort hero.

Co Louth campaigner Simon Ward also clinched a top category 2014 Alps Tour card in 34th place on one-under after a level-par 72 but Alan Dunbar fell to 59th on three-over with a closing 79.

Henrik Stenson capped a stunning season by being named the 2013 Race to Dubai European Tour golfer of the year on Tuesday.

Stenson (37) is the first player from Sweden to win the coveted award after creating history by winning the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai in the same year.

"It just reflects the stellar year I have had. You can call it a dream season, year of my life, whatever. It has been an unbelievable year and I am delighted, especially as I am the first Swede to do so," Stenson said.

"I'm not sure how I top it. The Majors are the biggest goal now and if I can continue to play at the level I have been then I feel I can have a pretty good shot at them."

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