An 11-year journey has taken Ballyliffin Golf Club to a position this morning where some of the world’s top golfers are teeing off on the Glashedy Links as they host the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
By Chris McNulty in Ballyliffin
Over the four days of the event, which teed off at 7.30 this morning when the first groupings – Mark Foster, Pedro Oriol and Ashun Wu on the first tee; Ryan Evans, Fabrizio Zanotti and Marcus Kinhult on the tenth – got underway.
“The players are raving about it,” Graeme McDowell ventured at a press conference yesterday.
it’s a stunning part of the world. I’m very, very happy for Ballyliffin this week. They are very proud of their product up here.
“I know what they went through to get the Irish Open here, and the product that they have put in front the players this week is something they should be proud of.”
McDowell is one of the players vying for a place at next week’s Open Championship when he tackles the Glashedy’s testing 18 holes.
And Rory McIlroy, whose Rory Foundation is hosting the tournament in Ballyliffin, has thrown his weight behind the Inishowen course.
“Obviously this is a great event in its own right but I think there’s elements to this golf course that if you can hit the shots here, you should be able to do it at Carnoustie, as well,” he said.
“I love the way it is right now. You know, but the course will still play firm. It will play fast. It will play very short. There will be a lot of iron off tees. But I think that’s how a links should play.”
The Glashedy Links is a Pat Ruddy-designed course that is rated as among the finest links courses in the world. Work began in 1993 and the first shots were fired on the Glashedy Links in August 1995.
It sits at 7,200 yards and features some breath-taking scenery, like from the seventh tee – a panoramic view that is up there with anything the world has to offer.
“It’s absolutely stunning,” agreed Jon Rahm, the defending Irish Open champion, whose 264 twelve months ago at Portstewarty is the lowest winning score ever in the Irish Open.
Rahm could become the sixth person to defend his title after Faldo (’91, ’92 and ’93), Ballesteros (’85 and ’86), Colin Montgomerie (’96 and ’97), Ian Woosnam (’88 and ’89) and Mark James (’79 and ’80).
Players are vying for a share of a €7million prize fund and boasts an obviously strong Irish entry. The Irish players include three previous winners in Padraig Harrington, Shane Lowry and McIlroy.
“Every Irish player wants to win his Open Championship,” says General Manager of Ballyliffin Golf Club, John Farren.
“The Irish guys dream about this. They all want this one and I think we’ll see a lot of the Irish players at the top of the leaderboard.
“They’ve had a look around and played a few holes. The feedback has been brilliant, particularly from the top players.”
Ballyliffin’s irrigation system, a €1.5million installation in 2007, has helped keep the lush green look on the course and the volume of personnel involved this week shows the scale of the event being hosted, bringing an estimated economic boost of upwards of €90million, €10million of which is in this week alone.
Yesterday alone, Ballygowan water went through six pallets of water on the course.
There are 2,000 staff on site, including catering, bar and security with 150 European Tour staff in Ballyliffin, with 60 green keeping workings and some 550 volunteers, a lot of whom are from Donegal’s other golf clubs, ending a hand.
“It has been a massive team effort going back to the founding of the club,” Farren says.
“Without that vision or aspiration we wouldn’t be here today.
“We’re excited. The process took 11 years. We had the Irish Seniors Open and that was the first move. We had hoped to to a dual host with Portrush, but the economic crisis put paid to that.
“We are really proud of what we have here.
“This is one of the strongest fields in Europe. We were hoping to get a sprinkling of stars from the States, but that didn’t happen. We have a very strong field here and we want some of the top guys to be at the head of the leaderboard on Saturday.
“The Tour players will savour this course.
“The Glashedy will stand any test.”Tags: