Golf tickets close to selling out
Tickets for the Irish Open golf tournament at the famous Royal Portrush course have almost sold out with six weeks still to go before tee-off.
The European Tour, which is staging the competition, said sales have exceeded all its expectations and are set to top 100,000 for the week-long event at the end of June.
The tournament is being held north of the Irish border for the first time in almost 60 years - a move prompted by the unprecedented success of the region's top golfers in the world game.
Northern Ireland Major winners Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke are all set to play, as is three-time Major winner from Dublin Padraig Harrington and last year's USPGA champion, American Keegan Bradley.
The Tour said it was taking what it described as the "unprecedented step" of advising all fans planning to attend to purchase their tickets in advance to avoid missing out on the action.
It has also helped draw up a traffic and transportation plan to ensure easier access to the event without causing disruption to residents. Park and ride services and extra bus and train links were announced at a promotional event in Belfast.
Antonia Beggs, championship director of the Irish Open, said "The combination of substantial advance ticket sales and the success of the home-grown Irish players were the catalysts behind today's important announcement in Belfast."
A European Tour statement said: "Pre-tournament ticket sales for the championship, being staged in Northern Ireland for the first time in almost 60 years, have exceeded all expectations since the spectacular links on the Antrim coastline was named as the host venue in January. Consequently, the weekend is now close to being a sell-out.
"Such is the demand to see Major champions Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and American Keegan Bradley along with a host of world-class names, that close to 100,000 spectators are expected in total at Royal Portrush over the practice day on Tuesday June 26, the pro-am day on Wednesday June 27 and the four competition days from Thursday June 28 to Sunday July 1."
Northern Ireland Tourism Minister Arlene Foster welcomed high ticket sales. She said: "Such is the interest in the Irish Open that the European Tour believes the weekend could be a sell-out. This is fantastic news, as increased ticket sales will result in increased revenue."