Ballybunion to Host 2009 Irish Seniors Open

The classic, rugged links of Ballybunion Golf Club in southwest Ireland will stage the 13th Irish Seniors Open June 5-7, 2009. Perched atop a beautiful stretch of County Kerry coastline, the course is regularly placed among the world's top 10 venues. Its selection represents another goal of the European Senior Tour to hold its tournaments on some of the game's finest venues.

The 6,598-yard, par-71 Old Course is widely regarded as links golf in its best. The layout features one of the world's top holes, the 453-yard par-4 11th, named "Watson" in recognition of Ballybunion's Millennium Captain and honorary life member, Tom Watson of the U.S.

The announcement of Ballybunion as host venue for the Irish Seniors Open in association with AIB and Fáilte Ireland - the 17th confirmed event on the 2009 schedule - is likely to appeal to over-50 players like Watson, the five-time British Open champion and universally regarded as one of the world's greatest players of links golf.

Watson, also a three-time winner of the Senior Open, was excited about returning to the course. "Having played the Old Course at Ballybunion many times since my first visit in 1981, I am now of the opinion it is one of the best and most beautiful tests of links golf anywhere in the world," Watson said.

Ballybunion is no stranger to European Tour competition, having hosted the 2000 Irish Open, won by Sweden's Patrick Sjöland ahead of countryman Fredrik Jacobsen and Ireland's Paul McGinley, who finished third. With Ballybunion taking its place on the Senior Tour roster and the 2009 Irish Open at County Louth in Baltray, Irish golf fans will be afforded opportunities to watch two tournaments played on a pair of courses on opposite coasts of the island nation.

Fáilte Ireland and AIB have been associated with all 12 previous Irish Seniors Opens. Martin Cullen, T.D., Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, said: "The growth of golf in Ireland over the past 20 years has been a unique partnership between Government, public and private enterprise. The government has invested significantly in a variety of events, including golf, and hosting this event on a course such as Ballybunion offers an opportunity to highlight the top-class links courses for which Ireland is renowned.

"Over 194,000 overseas visitors played golf in Ireland in 2007 with revenue amounting to €167 million, delivering valuable business and offering them an opportunity to experience not only the trophy courses, but also the many hidden gems Ireland has to offer."

Billy Andrews of AIB said: "We are delighted to sponsor the Irish Seniors Open at such a prestigious venue and we look forward to working once again with our co-sponsors, Fáilte Ireland and the European Senior Tour."

This will be the second straight time that the event has been played on a classic links, following last year's visit to Ballyliffin Golf Club in County Donegal, where Spain's Juan Quiros captured the title.

Simon Duffield, Ballybunion's general manager, said: "We at Ballybunion Golf Club are delighted to host the Irish Seniors Open in June 2009, and we look forward to extending a warm welcome to the European Senior Tour professionals, officials and the many visitors who visit our charming and challenging golf links. In particular, we welcome those who played in the Irish Open in 2000 and, of course, those visiting us for the first time."

Charles Perring, deputy managing director of the European Senior Tour, also welcomed the announcement. "Ballybunion has few peers as a truly great test of classic links golf. We are very excited to be visiting this hauntingly beautiful part of Ireland for one of our premier events on the Senior Tour.

"On behalf of the Senior Tour members, who will enjoy the privilege of playing the Old Course in June, I would like to thank Ballybunion, AIB and Failte Ireland - both our long-term partners in the Irish Seniors Open - for their role in making the 2009 tournament one of the most eagerly awaited pleasures of the 2009 Senior Tour schedule."