The Open championship will leave a “lasting and immeasurable legacy” for Northern Ireland, a prominent member of Royal Portrush has said.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry lifted the coveted Claret Jug amid emotional scenes on Sunday, in what was a fitting end to a tournament filled with drama and emotion.
And few people will have been more delighted with the resounding success of the event than chairman of the Open Championship committee at Royal Portrush, John Bamber.
Speaking to the News Letter on Monday, after the world’s media and the hundreds of thousands of spectators had gone, Mr Bamber reflected on a job well done.
“In many ways it feels quite surreal that it is all over, but I feel immensely satisfied,” he said.
“The whole event has exceeded my wildest expectations.”
Recounting some of the highlights of the four-day championship, Mr Bamber said Darren Clarke stepping up to hit the opening tee shot was a “special moment”.
He added: “The entire first hole was jam-packed with people. What an emotional start to the event, and it only got better from there.”
Mr Bamber also praised Rory McIlroy’s brave attempt to claw his way back into contention on the second day, after suffering a nightmare start to the tournament.
“Everyone was willing Rory to make the cut, but sadly it was not to be,” he added.
Finally, the euphoric scenes as Lowry strode onto the 18th green on Sunday was the cherry on top of the tournament for Mr Bamber.
He added: “Overall, I think it was one of Ireland’s greatest ever sporting events, and one that brought people from both north and south of the border together.
“It became a 32-county support for Shane by Sunday.”
And while he welcomed the huge immediate boost for the local economy, Mr Bamber added: “Perhaps even more significant is the fact that our little part of the world was showcased to hundreds of millions of homes across the globe.
“I firmly believe you will find more and more people saying NI is a must-visit location, not just for golf.
“People will have seen the beauty of the north coast, and I just can’t see how we are not going to have an ongoing legacy from all this.
“What we have had on our hands in Northern Ireland, particularly in north Antrim, has been a like a giant sleeping. That giant is now wide awake. We have shown ourselves to the world.”
Meanwhile, secretary manager of Royal Portrush Wilma Erskine – who is often credited as the driving force behind The Open returning to the Dunluce Links – said the event had been “a fairy tale”.