The European Tour has confirmed that the 2017 staging of the Irish Open – originally pencilled in for Lough Erne resort, outside Enniskillen – will not take place at the venue. Three years ago it was decided that the K Club would host this year’s event before it was due to go to Lough Erne 12 months later.
It is expected that Portstewart Golf Club in Derry could emerge as a viable, alternative option.
European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley said: “During a recent visit to the Lough Erne Resort, I was delighted to meet with the owners and to learn more about their significant investment plans for the golf course and hotel. It is a beautiful facility with an outstanding championship golf course designed by Nick Faldo.
“While the 2017 Irish Open will not be staged there, the European Tour looks forward to working with the new ownership consortium, and I am confident that the Lough Erne Resort will host an event with the European Tour in the future.
“Details of the 2017 venue will be announced in due course,” he said.
“In the meantime we are solely focused on ensuring that the 2016 tournament, which will be staged at The K Club in County Kildare in six weeks’ time, is a great success.”
In reponse to the decision Lough Erne released the following statement on Monday night:
“We are extremely disappointed that the European Tour has announced a change in its decision to hold the 2017 Irish Open Championship at Lough Erne Resort. From the day we acquired the Resort, we have been excited and committed to hosting the event, and we have never waivered from that commitment. We have in fact continued to make additional investments in the course and the Resort facilities, both of which are in superior condition to when the 2014 announcement was made.
“But, over the last several months, senior tour officials began telling us that European Tour management was considering a ‘traditional links course strategy’ for future Irish Opens, and because of that new strategy there had been indications that the 2017 date at Lough Erne might be in jeopardy.
“From the beginning of those conversations, we have remained steadfast in our position not to accept this change from the Tour, and we have spent the last few months trying to work with Tour officials at the highest level to persuade them to keep their commitment to Lough Erne Resort and the region.
“However, despite our willingness to work with the Tour in every way to convince them to maintain their commitment, they have made the decision to change the venue to a traditional links course in 2017 and at this point we have no choice but to accept it. We are disappointed not only for the Resort, but also for our staff and the good people of County Fermanagh.
“We have to accept the decision that the Tour has made, with its strategic commitment to links golf in the Irish Open for the near future, and we do welcome the decision to keep the Open in Northern Ireland next year. If and when that strategy changes, Lough Erne Resort looks forward to being first in line to host the next Irish Open that is not on a links course.
“We would like to thank all of those that worked so hard on initially obtaining this event for Lough Erne Resort. We would especially like to thank officials of the Northern Ireland Government for their unwavering support for Lough Erne Resort and for doing everything possible to avoid this outcome.
“While we are clearly disappointed with the European Tour’s decision, the Resort’s ownership group remains committed to working with Tour officials towards bringing a future Irish Open or an equivalent event to Lough Erne Resort.”