After this, it’s looking like Open season for Portrush
The rain may have tipped down and our golfing heroes didn’t worry the leaderboard too much — but the Irish Open was still a tremendous success.
So much so that golf fans are now setting their sights on The Open Championship coming to Royal Portrush in 2018.
European officials are said to be delighted with the smooth running of the sell-out Irish Open on the north Antrim coast, prompting speculation that the British major could be next.
The last time The Open was held at Royal Portrush was 1951 and work has begun to bring it back within the next 10 years.
The decision depends on the course’s ability to cope with the biggest tournament in Europe, but the success of this week’s contest sends a strong message.
A record crowd of well over 130,000 attended over six days, with the contest beamed into 350 million households worldwide.
Tourism Minister Arlene Foster said the event had helped sell Northern Ireland to the world.
She added: “Over the last six days, including the practice day and pro-am over 130,000 people have been through the gates of Royal Portrush golf club.
“That is an incredible figure and proof of the excitement that has surrounded the tournament.
“For Northern Ireland, we stand to reap significant benefits to the local economy from the huge crowds that are attending and enjoying the north coast.”
She added: “There is no doubt the Executive will receive a great return on its investment.”
Transport links coped with the influx. Police said the success of the operation was down to many months of detailed preparation.
Chief Superintendent Chris Noble, said: “The professional and personal approach of the police officers at the event was highly commended by those attending.”
Two arrests were made for possession of alleged counterfeit tickets but otherwise police praised fans for impeccable behaviour.
“The success of the park and ride arrangements facilitated minimal traffic disruption — however, we do appreciate the support of local residents,” CS Noble said.
Many players commented on the quality of the course.
Twice-Open winner, Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, said he would love to play an Open at Portrush: “The golf course is ready and hopefully they’ll be watching.”
Current Open champion Darren Clarke, who lives near the course, added: “For guys to come here and say it feels like an Open Championship is praise enough, as good as anyone can give it.”