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North of Ireland hopefuls to test out revamped Royal Portrush

 

By Paul Kelly

The revamped Dunluce links at Royal Portrush will receive its first significant test when the Cathedral Eye Clinic North of Ireland Amateur Championship gets under way on July 10.

The famous links has been upgraded ahead of The Open in 2019 and officials are keen to see how the new layout performs under competition conditions.

"We have no evidence how the new seventh and eighth holes will play other than what professional architects have told us," said John Bamber, Chairman of the Open Championship committee. "The North of Ireland gives us the opportunity to get 300 top class golfers out there giving us data which will allow us to decide how we play those holes.

"It is the perfect opportunity, a field of category one golfers, championship golfers, playing the course. What better way to assess the two new holes?"

The new holes, designed by MacKenzie & Ebert, will actually open for play on June 24 to host Mr David McMullan's Captain's Day competition. For the members, it will be the first time they get to sample the course as it will be configured for The Open.

"In many ways it is an historic occasion," added Bamber. "The last time two new holes were added to the Dunluce, people like Harry Colt were involved."

One member who will have to wait to play the new course is former Ulster and Ireland star Stephen Ferris, who is off to New Zealand on British and Irish Lions television commentary duty with Sky. Ferris, a 10 handicap, is already looking forward to giving the new layout a go.

"I haven't even walked them properly yet but it is very surprising when you are on the fairways just how undulating they are," said Ferris. "The two new holes are great additions. I think the it will make it a much sterner test for the professionals."

The closing date for entries into the Cathedral Eye Clinic North of Ireland Championship is June 12. For more details visit www.golfnet.ie

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