Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Royal Portrush sets sights on Open

PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 01: Jamie Donaldson of Wales celebrates with the trophy after winning the 2012 Irish Open held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 1, 2012 in Portrush, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
The final day of the Irish Open golf at Royal Portrush Golf Club. Rory McIlroy on the 17th
The Irish Open Pro-Am at Royal Portrush Golf Club. John Daly (USA) on the first tee

There was no home winner of the Irish Open yesterday, but Royal Portrush is celebrating a bonanza that could land a major championship.

Welshman Jamie Donaldson stole the show yesterday with an astonishing round of 66 to finish on 18 under par and land his first European Tour win after 244 starts.

Home players Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington all backed calls for the British Open to be staged at the venue.

But the woman responsible for bringing the Irish Open to Co Antrim admitted yesterday: "I didn't see a single shot!"

Course manager Wilma Erskine started out on her club's Irish Open bid seven years ago. "It has been an incredible week for everyone at Royal Portrush," she told the Irish Independent.

"I didn't get to see any of the golf unfortunately because I have been so busy behind the scenes.

"There has been a wonderful buzz. I'm looking forward to watching the highlights on television."

Organisers of the British Open - the Royal & Ancient - visited the Irish Open over the weekend.

And it wasn't lost on them that an astonishing 130,685 people had turned out over the week to watch the tournament - a new record for a European Tour event.

Mr McDowell told the Irish Independent that he hoped the British Open would come to his hometown club one day.

For now he was savouring the past week at Portrush.

"To grow up in the town of Portrush and to be part of the reason the Irish Open is here, myself and Padraig and Rory and Darren, we all feel a sense of pride that we have kept the Irish Open alive for the last four or five years and bring it up to this fantastic venue in the north coast of Ireland," said Mr McDowell.

Mr Donaldson's four-stroke victory did have something of a local link.

He plays out of Macclesfield Golf Club in England, where Open winner and Royal Portrush hero Fred Daly based himself in the run-up to his famous 1947 victory.

For Mr McIlroy, it was as near as he will get to a hometown tournament.

Once again, girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki followed him on his final round as he finished on 10 under for the tournament.

"The crowds which have come out to support the tournament have been incredible. It's been a huge success," he said, before he and the Danish tennis star went off to sign autographs.

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