Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Portrush traders divided over whether they'll benefit from the Open golfing invasion

Spar worker Seamus McCaughan
Sam Kennedy of Atlantic Hotel
Surf shop owner Andy Hill

It's one of the world's biggest sporting events – but not everyone is pleased to see it making a return to Northern Ireland.

Traders in Portrush are split over the possible benefits the competition may bring.

Some welcomed its return, but others recalled that they actually lost business during the Irish Open because golfers and spectators stayed within a self-contained area around Royal Portrush golf course.

Jonathan Jackmore, who owns Jackmore and Pye restaurant, described the Irish Open as "detrimental" to his trade.

"People were forced to stay in the compound," he said. "And the Giro d'Italia didn't affect us whatsoever because the town was blocked off."

The owner of a T-shirt shop agreed, complaining that the Irish Open had "not been inclusive".

"It did nothing for the town centre, neither does the North West 200," he said.

"They are just corporate events to make the council and Stormont look good."

John Gregg, who owns Sweet Mountain, said trade had been "terrible" so far this year.

He added that he doesn't know if The Open coming will improve things.

Glenn Tweed, from Etherson's Butchers, said while the organisers of the Irish Open didn't purchase any supplies from his shop, the overall effect of the event was to bring more visitors to Portrush the following summer, which resulted in improved trade.

"There are a lot of holiday flats which are empty. Hopefully this will bring in more people to fill them and therefore more trade overall," he said.

Other Portrush traders were very excited about the prospect of welcoming The Open in 2019.

Andy Hill, owner of Troggs Surf shop, said he decorated his shop for the Irish Open and adapted both his opening hours and product lines to attract the punters.

Last month he painted his shop pink to give the Giro d'Italia an enthusiastic welcome.

He was delighted yesterday to hear that The Open was coming and described the news as "awesome".

"We have started to see more American and Canadian visitors since the Irish Open and hopefully the British Open will bring over more from the mainland," he said.

"I don't play golf, I've never watched golf, but I got a ticket to the first day of the Irish Open and was amazed, and went every day of the competition. The atmosphere was incredible.

"I changed the opening hours and ended up selling out of Oakley sunglasses – Rory McIlroy was sponsored by Oakley then.

"The Irish Open was phenonemal but this is going to be a different level. I can't get my head around it yet.

"It's fantastic that the best of Northern Ireland is being seen by the world between Game Of Thrones, the Giro d'Italia and now The Open. We are in the headlines for the right reasons now." Drew McLean, manager of Cantley's Spar, overlooking the famous Barrys Amusements, was also delighted by the news, saying they are still experiencing a positive spin-off from the Irish Open.

"There are definitely more visitors about," he said, adding that our traditional treats like yellow man and rock were very popular with them.

Sam Kennedy, general manager of the Atlantic Hotel just across the road from Royal Portrush, was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Irish Open.

While he wouldn't reveal how much money it had taken in that week, he did mention it took in 10 days what it would normally take in two months.

"It was terrific for Portrush, the north coast and really put Northern Ireland back on the map," he said.

Neville Moore, managing director of the White House shop, said The Open coming in 2019 is "fantastic news for Portrush and Northern Ireland plc".

"Ten years ago if you had suggested that The Open would be coming to Northern Ireland, people would have thought you were mad," he said.

"It shows how far we have come."

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