NORTHERN Ireland’s journey from “conflict to peace” has earned Royal Portrush a return to the Open Championship rota after an absence of more than 60 years.
Last held at the Antrim venue in 1951, when Englishman Max Faulkner lifted the Claret Jug, the world’s oldest major is heading back there on 18-21 July 2019. It will be only the second time the tournament has been staged outside Scotland or England since first being held in 1860.
It promises to be a hugely memorable weekPeter Unsworth, R&A Championship Committee chairman
With the potential to generate up to £70 million for the local economy, it is expected to be the biggest sporting tournament ever held in Northern Ireland and will be Ireland’s biggest golf event since the 2006 Ryder Cup at The K Club.
“This announcement is a tremendous vote of confidence in the transformation that has happened here politically and security-wise over the last 20 years,” said deputy first minister Martin McGuinness as he joined Northern Ireland’s first minister, Arlene Foster, at a press conference at Royal
“Particular thanks should also go to Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington because their contribution isn’t just in terms of sport. These are all people who appreciate the importance of what has happened here over the course of the last 20 years, leading from conflict to peace.
“They have also appreciated the way in which their reputations have assisted us with government to ensure that we continue to build a better future for all the people we represent.”
Sitting beside 2011 champion and proud Royal Portrush member Clarke, new R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers played down fears about the event being held in the province so close to its marching season.
“We spent a lot of time with the Northern Ireland Executive, the tourist board, the club and external advisers working through those particular issues,” he said. “We are very comfortable that where we stand today, that we will be fine hosting it in July.”