Northern Ireland has never hosted a sporting occasion like it.
Yesterday The Open Championship 2019 drew to a close after a remarkable four days of the contest (and several days of practising before then by the world’s greatest golfers).
Royal Portrush, which is consistently ranked somewhere in or near the top dozen or so golf courses in the world, had previously hosted the Open, in 1951, but the competition was nothing like the same then in scale or international prestige as it is now.
This time it was a massive challenge. Part of the course had to be reworked to accommodate large-scale infrastructure. The north coast does not have as many hotel rooms as some Open venues. The road upgrade of the A26 Frosses Road from Belfast needed to be completed.
And then, last Thursday, as competitive play got under way, it became clear that Co Antrim had risen to the challenge. As our report on page four shows, the state of the Royal Portrush course won widespread praise from international visitors, as did the facilities around it and the access.
Everyone was able to concentrate on the golf.
Regrettably, Darren Clarke, who had hit the first tee on Thursday, and Rory McIlroy failed to make the ‘cut’ to the last two days. The brilliant Tiger Woods likewise fell short.
But the third of the great Ulsterman golfers Graeme McDowell did make it through to Saturday and Sunday.
In the end, a magnificent display of skill from Shane Lowry, the Irish golfer, saw him cruise to a comfortable victory, and a rousing reception on the 18th green.
Huge congratulations to him on this triumph, accompanied by a Northern Irish caddy Brian Martin.
What a fine moment and what a fine few days.
The Open came to the Province and, despite disappointing weather, it seemed as natural a place to host the event as are the courses in Great Britain.