Lough Erne Resort’s spectacular Faldo Championship golf course will be thrust into the global spotlight when the PGA EuroPro Tour Championship Finale takes place from October 19-21.
Millions of people from right across the world are expected to watch the action which is being televised on Sky Sports Golf. The event is open to the general public free of charge and there are no tickets required for entry.
“This will be a historic moment for Lough Erne Resort as it’s the first time we will have hosted a week-long professional tournament on the Faldo Course, renowned as being one of the top parklands courses in the UK and Ireland,” says Barry McCauley, Golf Operations Manager at Lough Erne.
“Our team has been working tirelessly with the EuroPro Final Tournament Directors to ensure everything is ready.
“Over the last few years, we have made significant investments in our golf facilities, and we are excited to be able to showcase this on a global stage for golf professionals and enthusiasts alike.”
Everybody at Lough Erne will be hoping for a big home showing to entice the crowds and with just five Challenge Tour cards on offer via the Order of Merit, our small island has been punching above its weight again in 2022.
Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy looks all but assured of one of the five coveted cards. The 29-year old has enjoyed a superbly consistent campaign, claiming victory at the CPG Classic in July while also finishing second no fewer than four times from just 10 starts.
Having banked £34,316.67, McElroy sits third on the Order of Merit but with the prize money doubled for the Lough Erne Grand Final, and less than £800 between himself and money-list leader James Allan, McElroy is eager for one more big week to finish the job in top spot on the standings.
“I’m in a great position but I’d like to finish first because you’re first in that category then for next year on the Challenge Tour,” said McElroy.
“Last year you would’ve missed out on South Africa because the events are co-sanctioned. You’re up against three other mini-tours who offer cards for top-5 so if you’re fifth on EuroPro, you could be 15th in that category. I’m only £800 behind so it would be nice to finish off the year as number one.
“Top-5 was my goal at the start of the year. The depth on EuroPro is really good. It’s a tough wee tour and only the top-5 from 156 players progress at the end of a long season so it would be a great achievement to do that.
“I want to progress my career into higher ranking events. My goal is to get onto the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour one day and I can only get there by progressing up the ranks and this was a big first step on that journey.”
The local boy McElroy hasn’t played Lough Erne since it first opened in 2010 but he fully intends to reacquaint himself with its plush surrounds, and he’ll have another top-5 challenger in Stuart Grehan to bounce ideas off in preparation for the Grand Final, too.
A dominating feature of the 7,071-yard Faldo layout is the spectacular views of Lough Erne, sights Grehan intends on making extremely familiar as he ramps up his own preparations ahead of October’s finale.
The Tullamore star is targeting a late season surge into the all-important top-5 on the Order of Merit off the back of a maiden win at the Spey Valley Championship.
“It would mean a lot to get onto the Challenge Tour. I have had a tough couple of years and it would mean so much to get there,” said Grehan who came through a 7-hole playoff to beat McElroy to his first EuroPro victory.
“Obviously having the Tour Championship in Lough Erne is massive. It’s on home soil, I’ll have a caddie that week and I’ll get good prep in so I see that as a huge opportunity, especially with the money being pretty much double.”
Grehan now finds himself in seventh spot on the money-list having bypassed invites to the Challenge Tour to focus his energy on his EuroPro exploits. With £22,145.67 to his name so far, he trails Ryan Brooks in fifth place by £4,000, but with £25,000 going to the winner at Lough Erne, Grehan has every chance to bridge that gap. And having also tasted victory at the €100,000 K Club Pro-Am on the Irish region this summer, he is taking no shortage of confidence into the EuroPro’s cash prize bonanza.
“The win doesn’t change anything, it’s just a confidence boost for me,” Grehan said.
“I’ve been playing really solid golf since the K Club. Winning there gave me a lot of confidence, but more so validation that I’m doing the right things.
“To win again is great, and I just need to keep that going and hope that come the end of the season, I’ll get my rewards.”
Grehan hopes a return to familiar pastures might just pay dividends in his push to join McElroy inside the coveted top-5, and given there are just five Challenge Tour cards on offer each year, how remarkable would it be if our small island managed to claim two of them in the curtain-closer at Lough Erne.
“I’m a big fan of Lough Erne. I played Faldo Series there under-20s,” Grehan recalled.
“I know it’s been a while but I know the course. I know they’ve invested heavily in the Resort and I’m sure it’s going to provide a fitting end to the season.”
Should Grehan fall short of his top-5 target, he also has a date with DP World Tour Q-School to look forward to. Now a Sales Assistant at McGuirks, Grehan will hope full-time golf awaits in his future but whatever happens results-wise from now until year’s end, the highly promising Tullamore talent will take confidence into 2023 having turned a corner with his game at long last.
“I won’t make a call on next year until my season finishes, so hopefully at the end of November. Unless I get a full DP World Tour card though, I’ll definitely work over the winter,” Grehan said.
“I’m going to Q-School and I’ll probably take a look at Asian Tour Q-School as well. The money there is obviously excellent so that’s another option but first and foremost, I’m focussing on Lough Erne and that top-5.
“For the last few years I’ve been searching for all the answers. This year I haven’t been second guessing myself which has been huge. I’m going to the events excited to play them rather than wondering what’s going to come out this week. I’ve had a clearer mind and thankfully that’s resulted in some good golf along the way.”
With a £102,460 prize fund at Lough Erne, and £25,000 to the winner, it’s also not beyond the realms of possibility that a bolter from the pack spoils the party for some of the season’s more consistent campaigner.
Whitehead’s John Ross Galbraith will need to win if he’s to jump from 29th place and inside the top-5 but it’s mathematically possible, and golf’s a funny game.
Ronan Mullarney (57th) is the last of the Irish challengers in the 60-man field and you can be sure the Galway man will be looking to spring an upset and have the last laugh in Enniskillen come tournament week.
Race is hotting up…
1 James Allan, England, £35,091.31 2
2 Michael Stewart, Scotland, £34,991.91 3
3 Dermot McElroy, Northern Ireland, 34,316.67
4 Josh Hilleard, England, £28,347.67
5 Ryan Brooks, England, £26,161.25
6 Brandon Robinson Thompson £25,610.21
7 Stuart Grehan, Ireland, £22,145.67
Lough Erne pay-out;