Portrush confirmed as Open venue

The Royal Portrush course in the North has been invited to join the rota to host future Open Championships.

The Royal Portrush course in the North has been invited to join the rota to host future Open Championships.

The famous seaside links on the Causeway coast last staged the Open in 1951 - the only time it has been played outside England and Scotland. The major could return to Portrush as early as 2019.

Golf fans in Northern Ireland have long held an aspiration that one day the tournament would return but only in recent years had that ambition started to look realistic.

The news was confirmed on Monday in a statement from the office of Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Mr Robinson said: “This is wonderful news, not only for Royal Portrush Golf Club, but for the whole of Northern Ireland, with an estimated combined tourism promotion and economic return of £70m (€87.78m).

“The decision to bring the Open back to Northern Ireland is a tremendous vote of confidence in the game here and follows the huge success of the Irish Open in 2012, the first in European Tour history to sell out.

“Today’s announcement recognises that Northern Ireland not only has some of the world’s greatest golfers, but some of the world’s greatest golf courses.”

Mr Robinson added: ``The return of the Open to Portrush will once again provide Northern Ireland with a valuable opportunity to prove our ability to organise major sporting events as demonstrated in May when we hosted the Grande Partenza of the Giro d'Italia and last year's hugely successful World Police and Fire Games.

“The R&A’s decision to invite Portrush to join the Open rota is a ringing endorsement of Northern Ireland and I know we will deliver an event that we can all be proud of.”

Peter Dawson, chief executive of golf’s overall governing body the R&A, said that 2019 was the earliest that Portrush could host the Open, but that it may be some time after that as planning permission was still being sought for some necessary course alterations.

Four major championship victories by local superstars Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke between 2010 and 2012 added a real impetus to the campaign to bring the championship to Northern Ireland, with all three lobbying on behalf of the course.

While the R&A initially expressed concerns on whether it had the infrastructure required to stage a major championship, those doubts were largely set aside by the successful staging of the Irish Open in 2012.

Massive crowds that descended on Portrush from across Northern Ireland and beyond two years ago made it the first ever sell-out of a regular European Tour event.

The Northern Ireland Executive has ploughed millions of pounds into efforts to bring high-profile sporting events to the region, most recently £4m (€5.01m) to host the start of the Giro d’Italia cycling race in May.

But helping to secure the return of the Open will undoubtedly be regarded as the power-sharing administration’s biggest coup yet in terms of attracting sporting showpieces.

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