Monday 27 May 2019

'The second green is 100 yards away from the pub' - Paul McGinley hoping to turn Irish Open into golfing 'festival'

Irish Open tournament host Paul McGinley. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Irish Open tournament host Paul McGinley. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Ger Keville

Ger Keville

After helping with the Irish Open's continued rejuvenation on the European Tour, Paul McGinley has his eyes on turning the tournament into a golfing 'festival'.

The victorious Ryder Cup captain took over from Rory McIlroy as the event host in 2018, and has helped drive the tournament from strength to strength.

This summer will see Lahinch Golf Club play host, and the Dubliner is relishing the chance to put Irish golf on the map once more.

With Ian Poulter, Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell some of the big names confirmed to be taking part, the 2019 DDF Irish Open is already taking shape. One thing McGinley would like to achieve as tournament host is to create a festival atmosphere that paints Ireland in the best possible light.

"I’ve said it from day one, a festival kind of feeling is what I want," McGinley said.

"The second green goes right up into the middle of the town, 100 yards away from the nearest pub, everything is within walking distance. We are going to be pedestrian only in the evening times so it will very much be a festival, obviously the golf is on the course here [Lahinch golf club], it was designed by McKenzie who was involved in other courses around the world including Augusta.

"It really will be the whole package and not just about the golf. A festival is a word I have been using since day one. Since it has been decided it was coming here to Lahinch, I’ve always wanted to create that idea of a festival aside from the golfing, there’s the surfing, the great pubs, the craic and the banter."

McGinley has fond memories of Lahinch as a player, having won the South of Ireland event there in 1991. The Dubliner credits that victory with giving him the career push to become a professional golfer.

"Well, it was a big turning point in my own career in 1991," he said.

"I won the South of Ireland here and that was what got me a place in the Walker Cup team that year in 1991 and if I hadn’t had made that team that year, in my own head I wasn’t going to have a go at going Pro. Back then you had to go Pro and if you were Pro that was it weren’t able to come back in as an amateur for a certain number of years, it was a big commitment.

"This kind of gave me validation, I had made enough progress and I was good enough to at least have a go at the Tour School. It was a big moment because I had just lost the final of the North of Ireland about a month before that to Garth McGimpsey so it was nice to come down and win."

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