The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open is underway this morning at Portstewart with Rory McIlroy doubling up as tournament Champion from last year and as backer through the Rory Foundation.
It remains the single biggest commitment to sport by an active athlete on this island and McIlroy has played a key role in bringing the tournament to it’s current level of real importance on the European Tour.
Inclusion for the first time in the Rolex Series means a total prize pool of €7 million and McIlroy is joined in the field by World Number Two Hideki Matsuyama and Olympic Champions Justin Rose as well as home favourites Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington.
The corporate facilities at Portstewart this week have been built by Galway based Eventus, as they have been every year since the company built the first tented village for the tournament at Portmarnock in 1989.
“This year’s facilities are significantly bigger than previous years,” said Eventus Managing Director John Fahy speaking to Sport for Business yesterday.
“The Rory Factor has played a big part and the upgrading of the tournament as part of the Rolex Series has attracted more marquee names to have a presence.”
“The corporate Facilities have effectively doubled in the past two years.”
This itself is a measure of the success of the tournament which this year has sponsorship from Tourism Northern Ireland, Emirates, Bank of Ireland, Heineken, Allergan, Dale Farm and a host of other major backers.
Bank of Ireland are hosting a skill zone for younger players which has proved popular through the build up to the tournament.
— gembell (@gembell87) July 5, 2017
“The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open has become one of the biggest weeks in the year, not only for me, but for our foundation,” said McIlroy who has once again pledged his winnings this week to the good causes being supported by his charity.
“We’re able to raise a lot of money for worthy causes during this week, and that started on Tuesday with a great evening in Belfast with Pep Guardiola. We were able to raise a lot of money through that.”
“I’m able to donate my prize money to the foundation as well and obviously, with a $7 million prize fund that is going to be substantial if I play any way decent. It’s an added bonus that the European Tour Foundation has pledged £100,000 to the foundation.”
“It’s fantastic that the foundation and myself along with The European Tour have been able to raise the profile of this event from where it was a few years ago to what it is now. At the same time, we are able to help all these worthy causes. We raised over a €1 million last year and hopefully we can do the same this year.”
RTÉ Television and the RTÉ Player are broadcasting live from all four days of the Irish Open.
Find out more about our next major event looking at the impact of Sport for Social Good in September 2017.