McIlroy 'has NI tourism potential'
New world number one golfer Rory McIlroy should be followed round the globe by Stormont officials to help tap into any tourism potential, according to a politician.
Ulster Unionist Mike Nesbitt led tributes to the 22-year-old Co Down sports star at the Assembly after McIlroy reached the top of golf's global rankings.
But Mr Nesbitt said more should be done to capitalise on the potential to draw golf tourists on the back of such success.
Democratic Unionist Peter Weir pointed to marketing strategies already under way in the US, plus the success in drawing the 2012 Irish Open to top Northern Ireland course Royal Portrush.
But there was cross-party praise for the golfer from across Ireland, north and south, as the congratulations of Stormont ministers was echoed by the Republic's Sport Minister Michael Ring.
Mr Nesbitt told the Assembly: "On September 19 2007, Rory was the world's number 876th. Today he is number one. And in a few weeks' time in Augusta, he will attempt to win the Masters and if he does, Northern Ireland will hold three of world golf's four major trophies."
After winning the Honda Classic in Florida, McIlroy initially ignored questions on his success and instead praised the event and its support for charity.
Mr Nesbitt said: "He did it with the support of his father Gerry, his mother Rosie. His girlfriend was there but we were not."
He added: "I know the minister for tourism has said she is reserving half a million pounds to promote and advertise the Irish Open at Portrush.
"May I suggest that today she starts that spend, with £233 for a ticket for BA flight 1526 out of Heathrow tomorrow for Miami and that she sends a marketing executive to the Doral Golf Club where Rory will tee-off this Thursday as world golf's number one player and Northern Ireland's number one ambassador."