Dubai Duty Free going ‘back to where it all began’ with 2019 Irish Open

Sport360 staff 15:50 13/06/2019
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The 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open will be laced with nostalgia for the leading airport retailer’s Executive Vice Chairman and CEO Colm McLoughlin.

The tournament is set to be held at Lahinch Golf Club in County Clare for the first time from July 4-7 and it’s a venue, and a county, of great significance to McLoughlin, Dubai Duty Free and the whole duty free industry.

“The duty free industry was started in Shannon Airport, which is close by, in 1947 by Clare man, Dr. Brendan O’ Regan,” said the Irishman, who joined Shannon Duty Free in June 1969, and is therefore marking 50 years in the duty free industry this month.

Colm was general manager of Shannon Duty Free in 1983 when the Government of Dubai contracted the Irish aviation authority, Aer Rianta, to set up Dubai Duty Free and Colm headed up the Irish team.

When Dubai Duty Free opened for business in December of that year, Colm was asked to stay on as General Manager and he has continued as head of the operation, which last year recorded record sales of US$2.015 billion.

“As a company, we really liked the choice of Lahinch as venue for this year’s tournament because of that link with Shannon, County Clare and the entire duty free industry. It’s going to be extra special for everyone involved with Dubai Duty Free this year,” he said.

“Also, my wife Breeda is from County Clare so she’s very happy that the tournament will be played in her home county.”

Since Dubai Duty Free took over the title sponsorship in 2015, the growth of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open has been astonishing.

Already one of golf’s oldest and most historic events, having been played since 1927, it became part of the European Tour’s prestigious eight-event Rolex Series in 2017 which saw the prize fund increase to a whopping US$7 million, making it one of the biggest events on the Race to Dubai schedule.

For the past four years, four-time Major champion Rory McIlroy has been the figurehead of the tournament but this year marks the start of a new era where the modern greats of the Irish game will form a ‘pool’ of hosts who will rotate each year.

First up is 2014 victorious European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley while Major champions Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and McIlroy will all join the roster.

McGinley too, has a special connection with Lahinch having won the prestigious South of Ireland Championship, which has been played at the venue since 1895, in 1991.

The Dublin man has promised a ‘festival’ vibe at this year’s Irish Open, with music and entertainment featuring alongside the golf and the unusual layout of the stunning Alister MacKenzie designed links course, parts of which meander right into the town, set to create an extra special atmosphere.

“The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open has a rich history and tradition of being hosted on great golf courses,” said McGinley. “The Irish heritage is built on fun, sociability and laughter. When asked to become the tournament host I wanted to help create the right environment and canvas to accomplish a meeting of both ideals.

“I have fond memories myself of winning the South of Ireland Championship at Lahinch in 1991. So, Lahinch is that special place for me and Colm and I can’t think of a better place to stage the Irish Open. It’s going to be a wonderful week in spectacular surroundings by the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.”

As well a strong Irish contingent of McGinley, Clarke, McDowell, Harrington, Shane Lowry and Seamus Power, a host of big international names has joined the field including Tommy Fleetwood, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, Thomas Bjørn and defending champion Russell Knox.

The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open takes place at Lahinch from July 4-7.

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