Belfast Telegraph

We’re going all out to win Open: minister

By Steven Beacom

Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin insists that the Northern Ireland Executive will do whatever is required to bring The Open Championship to Royal Portrush.

Ms NiChuilin has revealed that Stormont has already been in communication with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club (R&A) regarding the biggest golf tournament in the world coming to the province.

The encouraging news comes just days before this year's Open begins at Royal Lytham and St Anne's with Ulsterman Darren Clarke defending the Claret Jug he won in such impressive style last year at Sandwich.

The R&A are the custodians of the game and decide where The Open will be held each year.

The last time the championship was held in Northern Ireland was in 1951 at Royal Portrush. More than 60 years on there is finally hope of it making a welcome return to this part of the world.

That possibility has increased after the monumental success of the Irish Open at Portrush recently with the lobbying from Stormont well and truly under way.

When asked what the chances were of hosting The Open here, Department of Culture Arts and Leisure Minister Ni Chuilin stated: “We are working towards that.

“Arlene Foster (Enterprise and Tourism Minister) and myself are responsible for bringing events here, primarily under Tourism, and the work on that has already started.”

Quizzed on whether there had been communication with the R&A, she said: “All that has already started. Whatever we need to do to ensure The Open comes here, then we need to do that.”

Ms Ni Chuilin added: “I do believe we could handle The Open. We have the capability of pulling together a huge event.

“You may be given 100 reasons why you can't do something and one why you can. I like to always go with the one why you can. We've got the infrastructure, there is support from the Executive, the sporting community and the fans.

“I thought the Irish Open was a brilliant event. I was really, really impressed with the organisation. Even though the weather was atrocious, fans were out from 7am in the morning.

“There were well over 100,000 at the tournament which was more than had been at a European Tour event previously. Having Major champions like Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke from here is great.”

There would have to be changes to the 7,143-yard course at Portrush.

But even before the Irish Open finished ideas were being floated, such as making the 16th hole the 18th to allow for bigger grandstands at the finishing hole.

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