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Northern Ireland welcomes world class golf event

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Galgorm Castle Golf Club in County Antrim of Belfast will host the new ISPS Handa World Invitational on the European Challenge Tour.

New Delhi: This year’s Northern Ireland (NI) Open will be packaged in an exciting new avatar allowing both men and women professional golfers to compete for the most coveted prize on the European Challenge Tour.

The NI Open has been rechristened as ISPS Handa World Invitational with the intention to bring a new set of fans to the sport.

The men’s tournament stays part of the second-tier European Challenge Tour, while invitations will be offered to the world’s best in the women’s event.

The tournament will take place from August 15-18 with the first two rounds split over Galgorm Castle Golf Club and Massereene Golf Club, both in County Antrim.

The final two rounds will be back at Galgorm, which has hosted the NI Open since it began in 2010, and the thrilling new concept will see equal prize money totalling $500,000.

L-R: Pop star Niall Horan, golfer Charley Hull, European Tour CEO Keith Pelley at the announcement 

Around 300 players will take part, with both fields being cut after the second and third rounds to leave just the top names competing on the final Sunday, which will see the tee times alternated between the men and the women.

The event will also feature a large golf village for spectators at Galgorm that will host live music, artisan food stalls, interactive family entertainment, coaching zones and a junior event.

ISPS Handa, a non-profit organisation that aims to benefit the welfare of people through sports, has signed a multi-year deal with the tournament, the first of its kind in Europe.

Keen golfer and Irish pop star Niall Horan of One Direction fame is also behind the tournament. His golf management company Modest! Golf has been a long-time supporter of the NI Open.

Discounted advance ticket purchases can be made at worldinvitational.golf where spectators can take advantage of the ‘early bird offers’ to enjoy this showpiece sporting event. For golf fans it means there is an astounding summer of golf on offer around the island of Ireland. The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open takes place from July 4–7 at the iconic links of Lahinch in County Clare on the renowned Wild Atlantic Way.

It will be followed by the staging of The 148th Open, golf’s oldest Major, at Royal Portrush on the world-famous Causeway Coastal Route from July 14-21.

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Chinese Taipei’s Pan secures historic Presidents Cup ticket

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C.T. Pan became the first golfer from Chinese Taipei to be selected for the prestigious Presidents Cup to be held at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club this December. Photo: PGA Tour/Getty Images

Medinah, Illinois: C.T. Pan wrote a small slice of golfing history after becoming the first golfer from Chinese Taipei to qualify for the Presidents Cup as his PGA Tour FedExCup Playoffs campaign ended at the BMW Championship on Sunday.

The 27-year-old, who enjoyed a maiden PGA Tour win at the RBC Heritage in April, finished T31 after ending the week with a level par 72 at Medinah Country Club’s No. 3 Course. He needed to finish 12th or better to advance into the final week of the season where the FedExCup champion will bag US $15 million.

However, Pan safely earned his place amongst the top-8 players for the International Team to face the United States Team at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia this December when qualifying ended on Sunday.

“Yeah, it’s great. I mean obviously I didn’t play well the last couple weeks. I played okay, mediocre but to be able to lock-down this spot (for the Presidents Cup), that means a lot to me. It means I can make sure and plan my schedule to get ready for the Presidents Cup,” he said.

Apart from his breakthrough victory, Pan enjoyed six top-25s to end the season in 37th place  on the FedExCup points list. He was determined to make it to the Tour Championship after also missing out on the top-30 spots by a few rungs last season.

“It’s been great year, I would say. I won, achieved my dream to win a PGA Tour event and played well and got a spot on the Presidents Cup team. That means a lot to me. It’s very special year for me. But, you know, looking at my stats and my goals, I still have things I need to work on. I want to make sure I get better every day,” said Pan.

He will take a short break and start planning his schedule for the new 2019-20  PGA Tour Season which begins in September. He said he would take into consideration the Presidents Cup and ensure he is battle-ready to help the International Team wrest the trophy from the United States team.

“I was deciding whether to come back to the U.S. after the three events in Asia to get ready here in U.S. Now, with the Presidents Cup in Melbourne, I kind of want to stay in the same time zone, make sure my body will adjust to it,” said Pan.

“It will be wild. We will have a lot of fans to cheer for us, I’m sure. My family for sure, friends, too.”

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Rookie Gauri Karhade wins maiden pro title in sixth attempt

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Gauri Karhade in action during final round

Hyderabad: Rookie Gauri Karhade playing only her sixth event as a pro on the Hero Women’s Pro Golf Tour, stunned the front runners, amateur Shreya Pal, and the seasoned Gaurika Bishnoi, to land her first title on the circuit. She stayed calm and held her nerve to shoot a final round of 73 for a total of two-under 214 and win the 12th Leg by one shot over Gaurika Bishnoi (75) and Afshan Fatima (70).

Afshan Fatima, who made a great charge on the front nine with a two-under 34, held the lead midway through the back nine but dropped crucial back-to-back bogeys on 15th and 16th to fall into a tie for second with Gaurika at one-under 215.

Playing the final group, overnight leader, Shreya Pal began with a flourish on the first with a birdie. But she dropped three bogeys in the next four holes. Gauri, starting the final day two behind leader Shreya and one behind Gaurika, was steady and she parred the first five holes, as Gaurika also dropped a shot on second.

Then it was Gauri’s turn to make a mistake with a double bogey on sixth, but Gaurika dropped a bogey on seventh and Shreya dropped a double bogey. That opened the door for Gauri. Meanwhile, Afshan was making a charge with three birdies against one bogey on the front nine.

After nine holes, it was still a very tight battle. Gaurika, who was four-under for two rounds, was still two-under after 45 holes. Four players, Shreya, Afshan, Gauri and Ananya Datar were at one-under after the front nine.

On the back nine, Gauri and Afshan found birdies on 11th and Gaurika bogeyed to let Gauri and Afshan move into the lead with the two-shot swing. Gauri dropped a shot on 12th to fall back and Afshan was sole leader.

Gauri and Afshan both birdied the 14th at which stage Afshan was ahead at three-under and Gauri was two-under. Gaurika stayed at one-under. Shreya, now five-over for the day after a bogey on 12th, fell back to even par.

Then it was Afshan’s turn to make mistakes and she made two in a row on 15th and 16th that allowed Gauri to sneak ahead. She only had to stay calm and get her pars. She did just that. None of the three, including Gaurika, made birdies on the last two holes, leaving Gauri as the victor.

Gaurika, unable to find birdies the whole day, ended Tied-second with Afshan, who after a great 14 holes made crucial errors to throw away a chance.

Gauri, who started playing at the age of 10 and learnt her early lessons in Thane and Kharghar, has honed her skills at the Poona Golf Club and now resides in Mumbai.

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Korn Ferry finals: Ace golfer Anirban Lahiri gets positive start

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Lahiri had a rough start as he started from 10th and bogeyed 11th and 14th to go two-over.

Columbus: Indian ace golfer Anirban Lahiri started his campaign on a positive note, he shot four-under 67 to be placed at tied-fifth in the first round of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship here. The tournament is the first one in the series of three-event Korn Ferry finals.

The 32-year-old PGA Tour golfer was down by two strokes when he began his round with bogeys at the 11th and 14th holes. But the resilient Indian fought back with six birdies, including back to back birdies to finish the round. He had five birdies in a brilliant second nine, after starting the day at the 10th tee.

“I got off to a bad start but played good as things went on. I dropped a shot on 11th and then hit a bad drive but I started getting more comfortable later on. The greens were slower than what I have played in recent months. But then I was getting more comfortable with the surfaces as things went on,” Lahiri said.

Conversely, another Indian contender Shubhankar Sharma conceded a double bogey on the first hole and battled his way to a 75 that left him outside the top 100.

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