Royal Portrush officials were as flabbergasted as Graeme McDowell when they heard PGA of America president Ted Bishop suggest the Dunluce Links could become the first course outside the States to host the US PGA Championship.
But like McDowell and Rory McIlroy, who was sounded out on the idea by Bishop earlier this year, they would welcome the return of Major championship golf to the north Antrim coast with open arms.
“I have to say we were rather surprised also,” said Wilma Erskine, secretary manager at Royal Portrush. “But it’s all good publicity. It’s all rather splendid.”
Former captain Philip Tweedie, a member of the club’s tournament committee busy preparing for next June’s British Amateur Championship, revealed the club has had no contact of any kind with the PGA of America.
“It’s a wonderful compliment but a big surprise to hear our name the first to be mentioned,” he said. “We have to believe that we are held in high esteem to hear our name mentioned at such an early stage.”
Royal Portrush staged the most successful Irish Open in history in 2012 and hopes the R&A might one day stage the British Open at the course where Max Faulkner claimed the only British Open held outside Great Britain in 1951.
The PGA of America confirmed last month that a committee is studying the impact of holding the event around the world, with the earliest possible date in 2020.
Bishop mentioned Royal Portrush as a potential overseas venue when asked about it in the Golf Channel interview on Thursday: “Royal Portrush would be a great first international Major. I think given the powerful effect that Irish golfers have on the professional game today, that might be a good place to start.”
McDowell said: “It’s very bizarre and an amazing statement. I couldn’t believe it and read it three times. I had heard the US PGA was looking at going global, which is a very positive step forward, but I was expecting Asia, not the north coast of Ireland.”
McIlroy, who won the US PGA in 2012, confirmed Bishop had already sounded him out about taking the event to Ireland.
“I spoke to Ted about it,” McIlroy said. “He did not mention Portrush, just Ireland, but he has always liked Ireland as a venue.
“It’s a long way down the road, maybe 10 years or so, but I would love to play a Major championship at home. I think it’s a good thing. It would be great to see.”
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