Team Ireland Golf Supports 12 Rising Golfers

Additional European Challenge Tour starts provide major boost for aspiring Irish professional golfers as Team Ireland Golf grants total €94,500 in 2017

Aspiring Irish golf professionals will benefit from an ever increasing number of starts on the European Challenge Tour as part of the latest round of funding from Team Ireland Golf.​

Team Ireland, which is funded by Sport Ireland and administered by The Confederation of Golf in Ireland (CGI), today announced that 12 aspiring golf professionals will benefit from grant-aid worth €94,500. Stephanie Meadow, a rising star on the LPGA Tour, has received a grant of €18,000 - the highest awarded in 2017.

Speaking about the announcement, Meadow said: “I am so thankful for the support I have received from Team Ireland Golf. They have always had my back through the highs and lows. They enable me to focus on golf and achieving my goals. I will be forever grateful.”

Waterford’s Gary Hurley and Moyola Park’s Chris Selfridge, members of the European Challenge Tour, will receive €14,000 each while Sunshine Tour School graduate Neil O Briain will receive €4,500 and two European Challenge Tour starts.

Newcomers such as Jack Hume, Dermot McElroy and Rory McNamara – in addition to their grant allocations – will benefit from the playing opportunities afforded to them by Team Ireland. Hume is guaranteed at least five starts on the Challenge Tour while McElroy has secured a minimum of three starts. Headfort star McNamara will have at least two starts.

More than €3.5 million has been provided to golf professionals since the Team Ireland Golf scheme was introduced in 1999. Team Ireland Golf aims to contribute to an increase in the presence of Irish golf professionals on the various international tours.

The total budget for Team Ireland Golf in 2017 is €200,000. The funding for the scheme is provided by Sport Ireland. The budget includes allocations for the GUI National Golf Academy and for the ILGU and GUI High Performance Managers, who work with the golfers on the scheme.

2015 Walker Cup teammates Gavin Moynihan and Cormac Sharvin retain their funding support for a second year while Ruaidhri McGee, Kevin Phelan and Reeve Whitson complete the Team Ireland lineup in 2017.

As part of the support package, all golfers can avail of the world class facilities at the GUI's National Golf Academy. The golfers on the scheme also have free access to a network of service providers such as physiologists, sports psychologists, bio-mechanists, physiotherapists and doctors, all of which is coordinated by the Sport Ireland Institute at Abbotstown.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD, welcomed the allocation of the grants: “Throughout the last twelve months, Ireland’s golfers have continued to achieve success on the world stage and it is important that we continue to invest in our emerging golfing talent to sustain that success and maintain a strong presence on international tours. I want to pay tribute to all those involved in the scheme, including the Confederation of Golf in Ireland, the Golfing Union of Ireland, the Irish Ladies Golf Union and Sport Ireland, which assist golfers progress from the amateur to professional ranks.”

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Patrick O’Donovan TD, added: “Golf plays a significant role in Irish Sport and is also very significant from a tourism perspective. Events such as the 2016 Irish Open at The K-Club and the Irish Challenge at Mount Wolseley showed that golf continues to attract big numbers of visitors. From a sport perspective, Ireland’s professional golfers continue to fly the flag around the world and are excellent ambassadors for Ireland and Irish Sport. This grant will ensure that Ireland continues to produce golfing talent long into the future.”

In February, two-time Ryder Cup star Des Smyth was announced as Team Leader for Team Ireland Golf. Smyth will act as a mentor and advisor to the Team Ireland players.

Smyth, who emerged during an era when there was no official support structures in place, welcomed this latest development, saying: “It’s important we get the finances in place. It’s no guarantee of success but it’s about giving these players a leg up and getting them on their way. I think it’s incumbent on us to make sure we have enough finance in place to support players coming through from the amateur to the professional ranks. There is a grey area for a few years where guys and girls need support if they’re going to try and break through and make it on tour because it’s a very tough place,” said Smyth.

To date, 97 golfers have been supported by Team Ireland Golf including former Irish Open Champion Shane Lowry.

Lowry, still an amateur at the time, famously won the Irish Open at Co Louth in 2009. Upon joining the professional ranks later that year, he received a development grant of €20,000 and has since won twice as a professional, most notably at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in 2015.

Olympian Seamus Power is among the most recent beneficiaries of Team Ireland Golf. Power, who is currently playing on the PGA Tour having won his tour card last season, represented Ireland at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

European Tour winners Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane and Michael Hoey have been supported by Team Ireland Golf in the past.

Redmond O'Donoghue, Chairman of the Board of the Confederation of Golf in Ireland said: "The early years as a professional golfer can be both lonely and costly. We, at the CGI, do everything we can to make this transition as seamless and as painless as possible. On behalf of the CGI, I congratulate our emerging golfers, we thank them for representing us so well around the world and we wish them every possible success in the challenging and exciting years that lie ahead."

John Treacy, Chief Executive of Sport Ireland, commented: "Sport Ireland is delighted to invest in Team Ireland Golf, which is continuing to help Ireland’s top amateur golfer transition into the professional game. In 2016 Sport Ireland also supported Irish golfers at Irish Challenge at Mount Wolsely, we look forward to this becoming a regular fixture on the European Challenge Tour. The access the grant recipients have to the GUI National Golf Academy at Carton House and the world-class facilities in the Sport Ireland Institute is clearly having an impact on Ireland’s up-and-coming golfers. These supports, along with the vast experience and expertise of the new Team Ireland Golf Leader Des Smyth, means that we now have a strong system in place which will ensure Ireland continues to produce world-class golfers long into the future.”

Grants & Challenge Tour Starts (in brackets)

Stephanie Meadow        €18,000

Gary Hurley                        €14,000

Chris Selfridge                   €14,000

Ruaidhri McGee               €  7,500 (3)

Kevin Phelan                      €  7,500 (3)

Cormac Sharvin €  7,000 (4)

Jack Hume                          €  4,500 (5)

Gavin Moynihan               €  4,500 (4)

Dermot McElroy               €  4,500 (3)

Rory McNamara               €  4,500 (2)

Neil O Briain                       €  4,500 (2)

Reeve Whitson €  4,000

Total:                                     €94,500 (26)