We've just come through a period in which golf has been pitched into the spotlight as never before, says Alan Clarke
The Irish Open in June was a game-changer for Northern Ireland in terms of demonstrating our ability to stage major sporting events and in enhancing our status within international golf tourism.
Record-breaking crowds, a superbly organised tournament and a rapturous welcome to the players put the Irish Open up there as one of the most successful events ever staged in Northern Ireland.
Attendance topped 130,000. To put that in context, European Tour events normally attract around 40,000 paying customers across the four days. Our figures were better than the 123,000 who watched the Open at Turnberry in Scotland in 2009 and more than double the Scottish Open turnout a fortnight after Portrush.
The European Tour administrators were blown away by the Irish Open's success, while government, the NITB, potential investors, local businesses and the public were equally enamoured with the feel-good factor and civic pride engendered by the occasion.
NITB staff worked hard to ensure a really memorable visit for all.
A key role was attracting Hollywood A-listers Bill Murray and Aidan Quinn plus a number of other celebrities to the pro-am tournament. We also showcased Northern Ireland's attractions to the player's wives and girlfriends and hosted over 240 local, Irish and international media who all reported the tournament positively.
It was beamed into 350 million homes and on-course branding drove a 75% increase on hits to the ni2012 website from countries across the world.
Through golf tourism an estimated £14m is generated for the economy every year, but as a result of the Irish Open we now believe this figure will rise sharply.
The remarkable success of the tournament makes a good case for its return to Northern Ireland.
This is our year to influence global perceptions and to send a clear signal that we are confidently moving forward, ready to host further major events, golfing or otherwise.
If the Irish Open was a fairway on that particular challenge, we just smashed one straight down the middle.
Alan Clarke is the NITB chief executive