Royal Portrush proved itself as a world class golf venue in 2019 and the Open is already coming back to Northern Ireland’s beautiful north coast

News Letter editorial of Thursday September 9 2021:

Thursday, 9th September 2021, 12:38 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th September 2021, 1:07 pm
News Letter editorial

The return of the Open to Royal Portrush in 2019 was one of the crowning moment’s in the new post-Troubles normal of Northern Ireland.

The Province has two of the most admired golf courses in the world, Portrush and Royal Co Down, and has produced three major-winning golfers in recent years (and for a while had a better tally than England, which has a far larger population), yet for decades it was shut out of hosting Britain’s permier golfing tournament.

The championship event on the north coast two years ago was a resounding success.

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Not only did the visitors praise the course and the location and the atmosphere, it generated an estimated £100 million for the Northern Ireland economy.

The road from Belfast almost to Ballymoney had been dualled by then, improving access between the venue and the larger pool of accommodation pool found in NI’s biggest city.

The 2019 Open was so successful that Portrush is already earmarked to hold the 2025 Open, confirming its place on the circuit of top courses such as Royal Birkdale and Royal Troon.

It is more than reasonable for Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the prestigious Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, to be describing Royal Portrush as “one of the leading venues for the championship,” yet it is still a surprise to hear it, given how long NI golf seemed out of bounds for such an event.

The normalisation of Northern Ireland has been manifest in so many different ways, such as the MTV Awards being held in Belfast in 2011 or Fermanagh hosting the G8 summit two years later.

We are a small place but with a vibrant capital city, and a long, scenic coastline — and visitors seem just to like the place and to find the population hospitable.

Meanwhile, there was further grounds for sporting optimism last night when Northern Ireland held the favoured Switzerland to a draw in their football World Cup qualifier.

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