Open Championship yet another coup to make us proud
As Northern Ireland's three top golfers bid for further glory at the US Open this weekend, they know their past exploits have helped their native province land the greatest prize in the sport, the Open championship which is to be held in Portrush in five years' time.
This is another tremendous coup for this small part of the UK which has seen it host such diverse, internationally famous events such as the MTV awards, the Giro d'Italia cycle race, the G8 summit, the Irish Open golf tournament and the UK's first City of Culture festival.
Each of these events has been an outstanding success, drawing huge crowds and creating positive publicity for Northern Ireland. They have not landed here by accident but as the result of tremendous co-operation between government departments, agencies, the private sector and politicians. This newspaper has rightly criticised examples of political dysfunction when they occur, but we also give credit when it is due.
Given our success in devising compelling bids for each of the above events, many people will wonder why similar political will and co-operation cannot be displayed more often to tackle the day-to-day problems which continue to blight the development of a shared future here. However, that is a debate for another day and now it is right to bask in the glory of what has been achieved and what is yet to come.
Certainly there is plenty of work to be done before the Open arrives here. Infrastructure such as new hotels will have to be improved, but the prestigious tournament gives us the opportunity to create a lasting legacy. Indeed, it could be argued that the success of our leading golfers to date – each has won a major – has led to a greater tourism dividend south of the border. We must ensure that our reputation as an epicentre of golfing excellence continues to be promoted internationally.
We have five years to get both the staging of the tournament and its potential benefits right. The work begins now to show the best possible face of Northern Ireland to the world.