Golf administrators and tournament hosts are always looking for ways to grow the sport. The birth of the ISPS Handa World Invitational is one example of the sort of innovative ideas being thrown about in the world of golf. The International Sports Promotion Society (ISPS) was founded by Haruhisa Handa in 2006 and is a Japanese non-profit organisation that believes in the power of sport, with a particular interest in golf. It promotes equality and has done a lot of work with disabled golf but this tournament is a huge step for equality between the men’s and women’s game.
Taking over from the Northern Ireland Open, which was an event on the Challenge Tour, the ISPS Handa World Invitational is tri-sanctioned by the European Tour, the LPGA Tour and the Ladies European Tour. It sees 144 men and 144 women compete on the same golf course, for equal prize funds ($1.5m in each) but in different tournaments.
|2022||Galgorm Castle||Ewen Ferguson|
|2021||Galgorm Castle||Daniel Gavins|
2022: Ewen Ferguson
The ISPS Handa World Invitational is a special golf tournament as it sees men and women compete on the same golf course, at the same time, for the same prize money. The tournament was a joy the whole way through the week in Northern Ireland but it felt extra special when Ewen Ferguson confirmed his second win on the DP World Tour just minutes after a Maja Stark confirmed her fifth LET win thanks to a stunning final round of minus 10.
The two winners showed that there is more than one way to win a golf tournament. While Stark had to make an incredible push for the line to get the job done, Ferguson won from wire to wire. He set his stall out with an opening round of 61 and then held on to be in pole position at the end of each day’s play.
Richard Mansell, perhaps taking inspiration from Stark, was the man who laid down the toughest challenge to Ferguson. The Englishman came out of the blocks very quickly on Sunday but it was all in vain as his Scottish opponent kept his head out in front for an emotional victory.
2021: Daniel Gavins
The ISPS Handa World Invitational rightly earned a lot of good headlines in 2021. Golf fans, journalists and those involved in the sport talked of their delight at seeing men and women compete on the same course while Galgorm Castle proved to be a cracking venue. To put the icing on the cake, we were treated to a fantastic win by the previously unheralded Daniel Gavins.
Gavins came into the week in 453rd in the official world rankings and rated a real long shot by the bookies. Given that billing, the 30 year old did well to start the final round just seven shots off the lead and he said afterwards that he had no expectations of challenging for the title. However, it quickly became clear that he could play a part. He went out and played some aggressive golf which saw him make five birdies but most impressively he never really looked like dropping a shot even as the pressure increased and he moved higher up the leaderboard.
Gavins was unquestionably helped by the fact that he was playing so far ahead of the final groups. He did not have the pressure of the cameras following his every shot and by the time it became clear he was a factor, his round was nearly over. This was one of those days when everything just came together out on the course, and it just so happened that it was in a European Tour event and culminated in a life-changing win.