Ireland beats off challengers to capture 2011 Solheim Cup
FAREWELL Tiger Woods and the Ryder Cup; hello Michelle Wie, Annika Sorenstam and the stars of the LPGA Tour.
That's the exciting prospect for Irish golf now that the 2011 Solheim Cup has been confirmed for Ireland.
The biennial clash between the Ladies European Tour and the LPGA Tour has proven a big hit in Europe following the 2003 staging of the match in Sweden.
It returns to Sweden for 2007 and next time round in Europe the Solheim Cup will be played at the new Jack Nicklaus-designed Killeen Castle Golf Resort near Dunboyne in County Meath.
Killeen Where? That's a relevant question. No golf has been played on the new course which is still undergoing development.
It will not open for play until Autumn 2008, yet before a ball is struck in earnest, the 500-acre former ancestral home of the Earls of Fingal is gaining international fame due to huge investment and ambitious development plans by Snowbury Ltd.
They are putting in place the Nicklaus signature course, a 30,000 sq ft purpose-built clubhouse, the first Dave Pelz short Game Academy in Europe and a 179 bedroom Luxury Collection hotel to be run by Starwoods Inc. The hotel is scheduled to open in 2009.
Brian Wallace, a director of Snowbury Ltd, has promised Killeen Castle will be "one of the finest courses in the country" and no expense has been spared to ensure the highest quality on and off the course.
Former golf pro and event manager Roddy Carr played a central role in the negotiations for the Solheim Cup and was thanked for his assistance by Wallace.
Government investment was crucial in Ireland fending off the challenge of six other countries - England, Italy, Northern Ireland, Norway, Scotland and Spain - to secure the 2011 Solheim Cup.
Sports and Tourism Minister John O'Donoghue revealed that, in addition to backing that event with ?2.5 million, the government is investing another ?2.5m to revive the Irish Ladies Open from 2008-2012 inclusive.
This tournament will be played at venues around the country but Killeen Castle is already pencilled in for 2010.
"The experience and expertise gained over the past eight years since signing the Ryder cup agreement ensures that Ireland is ideally placed to host an enhanced Solheim Cup," said the Minister.
Alexandra Armas, Executive Director of the Ladies European Tour (LET), said: "We have chosen Ireland and Killeen Castle for a number of reasons, the first of which is the superb way the whole nation supported the Ryder Cup in September.
"The second is that we believe the modern Ireland is a young vibrant society compatible with the image we wish to promote for ladies golf."
This announcement will increase the interest in Irish players playing on Tour. Rebecca Coakley will be joined on the LET by Claire Coughlan and Martina Gillen who gained their cards from Tour School.
In January Coakley and Dubliner Hazel Kavanagh will play in the ?1.2m World Cup in Sun City from January 19-21. Kavanagh does not have a full card for 07 but availed of an invite from Coakely to compete in the tournament.