Thursday, November 17, 2011

Royal Portrush... Irish Open... 2013?

[Photo: the magnificent 5th. A par four that doglegs right, and out to the sea]

The flurry of expectation that Northern Ireland's Royal Portrush Golf Club must hold the British Open, rose to fever pitch after Darren Clarke's July win.

Everyone went a bit mad on the idea, as if it was a done deal, but it's about baby steps. The R&A aren't about to rush in without checking the infrastructure required to accommodate crowds upwards of 40,000 a day. Portrush is a town of less than 7,000, after all, and there are only three chippers.

The British Open is held exclusively at 9 golf courses, and I'm sure there will be some pressure to keep it that way as the income for each golf club and its local economy must be enormous. But a change would be good, and the presence of so many golfers from this island at the top of leaderboards around the world, should be enough to entice a mood change in the stuffy world of the R&A. That and the fact that GMac and Darren have agreed to act in an ambassadorial role for Royal Portrush, which will celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2013.

And baby steps are exactly what are being taken... the publication of the Stormont Executive's programme for Government, pledges - among other things - to host a major golf tournament in Northern Ireland.

For the official Executive document (a PDF), click here and do a keyword search on 'golf'

This would seem to imply that the Irish Open may be held in Royal Portrush as early as 2013. It would be a showcase event to demonstrate the capacity of the town and the country to host something as big as the British Open. And if things don't go quite according to plan (that one way system on the edge of town drives me nuts), there will be the perfect excuse to change things, build new roads, or whatever is seen to be lacking.

Build it and they will come, etc. etc.

1951 is a long time ago, but let's hope the Open comes back to Northern Ireland soon.

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