World Invitational: Niall Horan says N Ireland event 'huge' for his golf vision

Niall Horan's presence at the Northern Ireland Open in recent years has helped to swell attendances
Niall Horan says the only way to significantly grow the game of golf is through increased women's participation

Pop star Niall Horan says this week's inaugural World Invitational in Northern Ireland will be "huge" for his Modest Golf management company.

After backing the Northern Ireland Open for the last three years, Horan's golf stable have been instrumental in the event being transformed into new men's and women's tournaments.

"The only way to grow the game is through women's golf," insists Horan.

"Once girls are into it, everyone is into it."

The men's and women's events at Galgorm Castle and Massereene will have equal prize money as a big summer of golf continues in Northern Ireland following last month's Open Championship.

The men's tournament stays part of the second-tier European Challenge Tour while Europe's Solheim Cup captain and former Women's British Open winner Catriona Matthew and England's Charley Hull are among the top women who will be in action.

The 72-hole events, which take place from 15-18 August, will see all 300 competitors playing one day at Massereene Golf Club in addition to their other rounds at Galgorm Castle which has been the NI Open's venue since the event began in 2010.

World invitational to follow Vic Open format

The format for the tournament follows the men's and women's model successfully adopted by the Vic Open in Australia.

As is the case with the Australian event, ISPS Handa will be the main sponsor of the tournament.

The equal prize money will see both fields battling for total funds of $250,000 (£192,000) while men and women will play at both venues on all four days.

US-based Irish players Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow are also among the players in an event which will have second and third-round cuts while the men's field includes European Tour winners Michael Hoey, Richard Green and Ross McGowan.

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Niall Horan at the launch of the World Invitational in May

'I wouldn't miss it'

Mullingar man Horan believes the new format can "deliver something very special".

"We got into golf with the aim to help and develop the next generation of players. By supporting a tournament like this exciting new World Invitational, we are going to bring that goal to fruition," added the Modest Golf chief, whose clients include European Ryder Cup star Tyrrell Hatton plus another European Tour winner Christiaan Bezuidenhout.

"We're very proud of what we're doing with this tournament," added the One Direction star.

"We've had a great relationship with Gary Henry and all the people at Galgorm for a long time.

"This is our fourth year of involvement and the crowd in the games are getting bigger with the new sponsors coming on board this year as well.

"I'm really looking forward to the week. It's being played on two great course and my mates, the band Wild Youth are opening it with their gig on the Tuesday night.

"It's a great event which has consistently broken attendance records on the Challenge Tour and it's effectively turning into a European Tour event at this stage. I'll be around during the week. I wouldn't miss it."