Royal Portrush Golf Club will host 2019 Open Championship
Royal Portrush Golf Club has been given a definite date - 2019 - for the return of The Open to these shores for the first time since 1951.
A high-powered delegation from the Royal and Ancient (R&A), organisers of The Open, visited the famous old club this morning and were joined by local hero and 2011 Open winner Darren Clarke.
The 2019 Championship will be held from July 18-21. And it will come to Northern Ireland twice more before 2040.
It will be the biggest sporting event ever to be staged here in terms of prestige and global media exposure. It will also provide a massive boost to the tourism economy, well beyond the north coast, with tens of thousands expected to descend.
Royal Portrush has been gearing itself for this moment since the club's successful staging of the Irish Open in 2012.
It has known the earliest it could stage The Open would be 2019 or, if it was to miss the cut for that, then 2020, with venues allocated up until 2018.
But in order to be ready, the club has embarked on an extensive programme of preparation.
Two completely new holes are being created to take the par 71 course to a total of 7,337 yards. The new holes will also be able to accommodate the huge grandstands necessary for the staging of a modern Open Championship.
Contingencies have also included pre-booking hotel accommodation for players and the vast event support team, allowing the club and the R&A organisers to focus on the massive logistical task of hosting our first Major golf tournament of the modern era.
The numbers, organisation, technology and, indeed, the money involved - the event will be worth millions to the whole Northern Ireland economy - are a world removed from when The Open last visited here in 1951, in the heyday of our own late, great Fred Daly, the first Northern Ireland winner of the Championship at Hoylake in 1947. Clarke and Rory McIlroy ended our long wait for another in 2011 and 2014 respectively
Welcoming the news, Tourism NI Chairman Terence Brannigan said: “The confirmation that The Open is to be staged at Portrush in July 2019, and twice more by 2040, will be greeted with huge excitement and pride by our local tourism industry. Our planning can now begin in earnest.
"The north coast will provide a dramatic and stunning backdrop to the event when it will be hosting an expected 200,000 visitors from all parts of Great Britain, the Republic of Ireland and overseas.
I am delighted that the R&A have demonstrated their confidence in us as a destination and, both in the run up to the tournament and throughout its duration in 2019, Tourism NI and our industry partners will be pulling out all the stops to stage the best ever welcome for an Open Championship.”
Local retailer Suzanne Conkey, of the White House Portrush, said it would be a game changer in terms of the global perception of Northern Ireland.
She said: “It will lever significant inward investment in terms of infra-structure and facilities, which of course is not only good for residents, but for the many visitors that come to the North coast each year and for future legacy of the North Coast.
"Business should be primed to take advantage of the increased visitor numbers which will undoubtedly increase both in the run up to the competition and post event. The championship represents a very real opportunity for the local economy”
"We have the benefit of experience from hosting the Irish Open and any lessons from that can be applied to the Open championship. One important change is that visitors will be able to come and go from the Championship and this means that hopefully they will also spend time enjoying everything that the North Coast has to offer. We are lucky to have this experience to lean on and have five years to prepare for the competition.”