Thirty-nine players from the island of Ireland are scheduled to begin the ISPS Handa World Invitational Men | Women presented by Modest! Golf tomorrow [Thursday].
The event, the first of its kind in Europe, welcomes male and female players to compete at the same time, on the same courses, for equal prize money and is likely to become a blue print for tournaments into the future.
“I don’t think we realise how big this week will be for golf,” said Niall Horan, of Modest! Golf Management. “It’s crazy how this event has become a reality from an idea just over a year ago and it couldn’t have been realised without the support of ISPS Handa.”
ISPS Handa believe in the power of sport and its ability to break down barriers between people. Earlier this year they supported The Vic Open which acted as the first major tournament in the world to include male and female players who would be equally paid.
“They’ve done so many great things for golf, for female golf, male golf, disabled golf. Dr. Handa has been all over it for 30 years,” explained Horan. “He’s really made a difference in the golf world, he’s a great guy with a great vision and he’s been a pioneer in the game.”
Ardglass Professional Cormac Sharvin carries much of the home expectation in the men’s event as he continues to bid for his European Tour card through the Challenge Tour rankings. Five top-10 finishes this year in addition to a top-10 finish at the NI Open at Galgorm Castle in 2018 are sure to lift the Ulsterman’s confidence as he gets his tournament underway at 08:14am in Massereene.
Both Stephanie Meadow and Leona Maguire are set to compete in their first Professional event at home and their first event together in Ireland since the 2012 Irish Women’s Close Championship at Co. Louth.
“We haven’t had a chance yet to come home and perform since turning Pro,” said Meadow. “I think that’s special for both of us. It’s also the first time that a lot of the young girls will be able to see us play so it’s just fantastic. If we could get even one or two girls, maybe more, to pick up the game this week that’s our job done.”
Horan has a similar goal.
“I have quite a large following online, mostly young girls,” he laughed. “If I can encourage one or two percent of those to take up golf then that’s a big tick in my book. If we grow the women’s game, we grow the game overall.”
“Fifteen Irish amateurs, seven female, are in the field at the ISPS Handa World Invitational alongside eleven Team Ireland supported Professionals. The event runs from August 14 – 18 at Galgorm Castle and Massereene Golf Clubs.