Just four weeks after the Open Championship's long-awaited return to Northern Ireland at Royal Portrush in July, a European Challenge Tour event and women's invitational tournament will be held concurrently at the inaugural ISPS HANDA World Invitational Men | Women, presented by Modest! Golf Management.
Held at Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort and Massereene Golf Club from August 15-18, the ISPS HANDA World Invitational Men | Women will feature equal prizemoney for men and women (US$250,000 for each event) as a rebranded version of the former Northern Ireland Open.
In line with the format used at the Vic Open since 2012, full men's and women's fields will compete on different courses for the first two rounds before sharing the Galgorm Castle layout for the final 36 holes.
A third round cut will reduce the field even further for the final round.
ISPS HANDA chairman Haruhisa Handa, high-profile tour pro Charley Hull and Northern Irish singer and Modest! Golf Management owner Niall Horan joined European Tour CEO Keith Pelley at a press event in London to announce the new event.
Amazing launch of the @ISPSHanda world invitational this morning.Ladies and men competing for an equal prizefund in August @GalgormResort .Thank you Keith Pelley and @EuropeanTour for support .Thank you @TheRealKirstyG , @HullCharley and Dr. Handa . Going to be a great week. pic.twitter.com/xJqWUwGeV2— Niall Horan (@NiallOfficial) May 13, 2019
The women's invitational - though featuring prizemoney well below what is on offer on the US LPGA Tour - will target many of the world's leading women's golfers.
“We are very pleased to become involved in this exciting new World Invitational event for both men and women professionals,” said Dr Handa.
“The company ethos of ISPS HANDA has always been to try and break down barriers and present opportunities for everyone through sport, especially those disadvantaged. Sport has the ability to bring people and communities together and we welcome the opportunity to work closely with all the partners for this exciting new event.”
Modest! Golf’s Niall Horan said: “We got into golf with the aim to help and develop the next generation of player. By supporting a tournament like this exciting new World Invitational we are to bring that goal to fruition.
“Myself and the entire Modest! team are delighted to be partnering with ISPS HANDA, a wonderful organisation who are synonymous with promoting the game around the world and helping to bring people together through sport."
The innovative ISPS HANDA World Invitational Men | Women will take place 4 weeks after the Open Championship is staged at Northern Ireland's Royal Portrush.
The ISPS HANDA World Invitational will be a first-of-its-kind event for Europe but builds on the momentum of the recent Jordan Mixed Open which pitted men and women against each other in the same competition.
European Tour boss Keith Pelley said: “As golf’s global Tour, our core values are innovation and inclusivity and this new tournament fits perfectly into both of those genres. We are so pleased to have another innovative format on the Challenge Tour’s schedule following the success of the Jordan Mixed Open earlier this year.
“It’s fantastic to see these pioneering events becoming more common on the global golfing calendar and we hope they continue to grow with the support of sponsors and broadcasters.
“We have seen the success of the ISPS Handa Vic Open in Australia – which was won by Challenge Tour graduate David Law – and it is really exciting to have a tournament of the same format taking place in Northern Ireland this year."
Want video tips delivered straight to your inbox? Subscribe to iseekgolf.com newsletters.