Funds pledged for Portrush golf bid
A bid to bring a professional golf tournament back to Northern Ireland following the region's stunning success in the world game has been backed with a financial commitment from the Stormont Government.
The power-sharing Executive in Belfast has pledged to stump up funding to help Royal Portrush Golf Club secure an event.
It is envisaged that the famous links course could now stage the Irish Open within two years - a move that could pave the way for the Open Championship itself to return to Northern Ireland for only the second time in its history.
With three golfers from Northern Ireland - Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke - winning Majors in the space of 13 months, tourism minister Arlene Foster said it is a case of striking when the iron is hot.
"Our golf courses are among the best in the world and our three Major winners - Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, and now Darren Clarke - have proven that Northern Ireland is a top golfing destination," she said.
"The time is now right to bring a major international golf tournament to Northern Ireland. This will showcase our golf tourism offering all over the world and provide a major boost to our local economy."
The region's three stars have all backed the campaign and two of them - Royal Portrush members McDowell and last weekend's Open winner Clarke - joined the minister to make the announcement.
Clarke said:"This announcement today is a great achievement for Royal Portrush Golf Club. The enthusiasm and support I have received since returning home has been overwhelming and I am keen to ensure golf remains in the foreground of everyone's minds.
"To secure a major tournament in my home town would be a fantastic result following all the hard work the club members and captain have been doing behind the scenes, as I know both Graeme and myself would completely support such a major event at our home club."
Graeme McDowell, US Open 2010 winner, said: "I am very pleased to hear we now have work in progress to securing such an event and hope to support the club and the borough any way I can to make sure this takes place."