Pop-music star Niall Horan’s love for golf has been well-documented, from his receiving Golf Digest’s Arnie Award two years ago for his charitable endeavors, to his support of the Drive, Chip and Putt competition run by the PGA of America, USGA and Augusta National. Now, along with ISPS Handa, Horan’s golf management company, Modest Golf, will help turn the Northern Irish Open, a European Challenge Tour event, into a tournament for men and women players.
The European Tour announced on Monday the addition of the ISPS Handa World Invitational to its Challenge Tour schedule. The 72-hole event will be held Aug. 15-18 at Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort and Massereene Golf Club in Northern Ireland.
Simultaneous to the men’s tournament, a women’s tournament, not affiliated with any women's tour but with players expected from the LPGA Tour, Ladies European Tour as well as players from Asia and Australia, will be contested on the same courses and for a $500,000 purse, to be divided equally between the men's and women's competition.
“We got into golf with the aim to help and develop the next generation of players,” said Horan, whose company had previous connections with the Northern Irish Open. “By supporting a tournament like this exciting new World Invitational, we are going to bring that goal to fruition.”
The news comes three months after the Vic Open in Australia, also sponsored by ISPS Handa, became a men’s and women’s tournament that is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and LPGA Tour. And in March, the Challenge Tour, Staysure Tour and Ladies European Tour tri-sanctioned the Jordan Mixed Open, which was the first time men, women and seniors had competed against one another.
“Our core values are innovation and inclusivity,” said European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley at the events launch on Monday in London. “This new tournament fits perfectly.”