Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Newcastle celebrates as Royal County Down tees up 2015 Irish Open

Welcome: Graeme McDowell

Newcastle is expecting a major tourism boost after it was announced that the 2015 Irish Open will be staged at Royal County Down.

It will be the first time in 75 years that the tournament will be played at the elite links course.

Delighted Northern Ireland golfing stars Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell have given the news their seal of approval.

"The 2013 Irish Open was a huge success and Royal County Down is another great golf course," said Rory.

McDowell said Royal County Down was one of his favourite courses in Ireland.

"It's a bit more of an acquired taste and you've got to play it a few times to find your way around those blind tee shots," he said.

McDowell had been a big supporter of the decision to host the European Tour event at Royal Portrush in 2012. The Co Antrim course had also been the favourite to host it again next year.

But traders in Co Down are instead rubbing their hands together at the prospect of a big boost to the local economy.

Chris Clarke from Newcastle Chamber of Commerce said there was a mood of excitement in the town as news broke on Wednesday evening.

"It should be a major boost for the town itself," he said.

"We had 120,000 people at our Festival of Flight last summer and with the Irish Open we hope that it will really put Newcastle on the map.

"We hope organisers will provide a re-entry ticket to the course as in Portrush that was the only complaint, and we are hoping as many businesses as possible can benefit.

"It is great for all the hotels, bars and guest houses."

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie tweeted that it was a "wonderful opportunity for golf and tourism".

Newcastle councillor Willie Clarke also tweeted: "Must maximize the tourism exposure and sporting legacy."

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