The European Seniors Tour will continue to break new ground in 2005 when the AIB Irish Seniors Open moves to the Heritage Golf & Country Club at Killenard in County Laois.

The privately owned development, less than an hour’s drive from Dublin, features a Seve Ballesteros co-designed championship course, a golf academy, leisure facilities and a 125 bedroom luxury hotel.

The 7,345 yard championship course, co-designed with Jeff Howes Design, is Ballesteros’s first venture into golf design in Ireland, a country close to the Spaniard’s heart having won the Irish Open three times during the 1980s. Ballesteros, winner of five Major Championships and one of the most charismatic players ever to grace the game, will be eligible for the Seniors Tour in three years.

Billy Andrews, General Manager AIB, said: ‘The move to The Heritage Golf & Country Club marks an exciting new era for the AIB Irish Seniors Open. Over the past seven years we have witnessed remarkable golf over some of the finest venues Ireland has to offer and we will be continuing that trend in 2005.’

Shaun Quinn, Chief Executive, Fáilte Ireland, welcomed the announcement saying: ‘I fully endorse the selection of the impressive Heritage Golf & Country Club, Killenard, County Laois, as the venue for the 2005 AIB Irish Seniors Open. The magnificent course will serve as a complementary backdrop for this annual highlight of Ireland’s international golfing calendar. The significant international media coverage generated by this tournament will provide a valuable tourism boost to the Midlands and will further enhance Ireland’s reputation, not simply as a golfing destination, but as a quality tourism destination.

‘Fáilte Ireland is committed to on-going investment in the promotion of Ireland as a premier golf tourism destination and the AIB Irish Seniors Open plays a crucial role in this successful strategy. In 2002 Ireland attracted over 177,000 golfing visitors who spent €162m.’

Tom Keane, Proprietor and President of the Heritage Golf & Country Club, said: ‘It is with great pride and pleasure that we look forward to hosting the 2005 AIB Irish Seniors Open. It is a wonderful opportunity for us to welcome the players, the sponsors and their guests, our esteemed members, the sporting media and the public to experience not only the golfing facilities but the many faceted qualities that The Heritage at Killenard has to offer.’

Seve Ballesteros, course co-designer with Jeff Howes Design, remarked: ‘It is wonderful that my first course design in Ireland and the UK has been chosen to host such a major international tournament. Being a householder here I have no doubt that the quality field and spectators that the event attracts will enjoy not only the golf course but the total experience of The Heritage.’

Andy Stubbs, Managing Director of the European Seniors Tour, said: ‘Since becoming a part of the Seniors Tour schedule in 1997, the AIB Irish Seniors Open has quickly grown into one of the most eagerly awaited events on the calendar, both by the players and the thousands of spectators who attend regularly, and we thank AIB for their continued support.

‘We have had the pleasure of visiting a variety of new and established high quality venues as the event has travelled around Ireland with a traditional warm Irish welcome wherever we go and we can be assured of a similar reception at The Heritage Golf & Country Club next year. Ireland has firmly established itself among the world’s leading golfing destinations thanks to the investment from Fáilte Ireland and we can look forward to an exciting week at the 2005 AIB Irish Seniors Open.’

In 2004 the AIB Irish Seniors Open will be played from June 4-6, returning to Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort for a third successive year. In 2003 Noel Ratcliffe took the title, a five under par total of 211 seeing the Australian home by a shot from a cosmopolitan chasing pack which featured Jamaica’s Delroy Cambridge, Scotland’s Martin Gray and Bob Lendzion of the United States.

Ratcliffe’s victory denied Seiji Ebihara a third successive title, the popular Japanese golfer having won at Adare Manor in 2002 as well as at Powerscourt Golf Club in 2001.

In the aftermath of his victory in 2002, Ebihara ensured his place in Irish hearts when he donated €10,000 of his prize money to local children’s charities, receiving almost as warm a reception as Joe McDermott did when he won at Woodbrook Golf Club in 1998, to date still the only Irishman to win the title.

The inaugural champion in 1997 was England’s Tommy Horton, the chairman of the Seniors Tour Committee, who won by two shots from Ratcliffe at St Margarets, on his way to one of his five victories on the Seniors Tour Order of Merit that season.

Other winners have been Horton’s fellow Englishman John Morgan at Mount Juliet Conrad in 1999 and America’s Bruce Fleisher at Tulfarris Golf Club in 2000.

The Heritage Golf and Country Club is situated in Killenard, County Laois, close to Monasterevin, 40 miles from Dublin. The championship course features challenging doglegs and spectacular lakes and streams.

For further information, contact:

Communications Division
The European Tour
Tel: +44 (0) 1344 840400
Fax +44 (0) 1344 840444

AIB Bank
Jim Kelly, Manager, Brand Management Unit
Tel: +353 (0)1 641 1131
Fax: +353 (0)1 283 0364

Fáilte Ireland
John Brown
Tel: +353 (0)1 602 4306
Mob: +353 (0)87 4158795

The Heritage Golf & Country Club
Eddie Dunne, General Manager
Tel: +353 (0)502 45994
Fax: +353 (0)502 45052