THE British Open is set to return to Northern Ireland for the first time in over 60 years and only the second time in its more than 150-year history.
Royal Portrush has been invited to stage The Open by The R&A and the County Antrim club’s members will now be asked to ratify the proposal to enable preparations to begin for what is expected to be the largest sporting event ever to be held in Northern Ireland.
The Open is golf’s oldest and most international Major Championship. It has a broadcast reach of over 500 million households around the world and a record 4,468 hours of television coverage of The Open Championship at Muirfield was monitored in 2013. Based on independent research The Championship is likely to deliver a combined economic impact and destination marketing benefit of £70 million for Northern Ireland.
The First Minister Peter Robinson said, “This is wonderful news, not only for Royal Portrush Golf Club, but for the whole of Northern Ireland. The decision to bring The Open back to Northern Ireland is a tremendous vote of confidence in the game here and follows the huge success of the Irish Open in 2012, the first in European Tour history to sell out.”
The Open was held at Royal Portrush in 1951, when Englishman Max Faulkner lifted the famous Claret Jug after a two-shot victory over Argentina’s Antonio Cerda, on the only occasion it has been played outside Scotland and England.
Royal Portrush successfully staged the Irish Open in 2012, with more than 130,000 people attending throughout the week, and it has held the Senior Open Championship on six occasions. The Amateur Championship is being played at the Dunluce links for the third time this week.
Peter Unsworth, the Chairman of The R&A’s Championship Committee, said, “Royal Portrush is one of the great links courses and we could not be more excited at bringing The Open back to Northern Ireland.”
The next available date for the championship is 2019 though it is possible the Portrush staging could be “a year or two longer than that.”