Belfast Telegraph

Golfers look forward to Irish Open on home turf

By Steven McCaffery

The decision to tee-up a major golf tournament for the Royal Portrush club this year was hailed by the sport's top professionals from across Ireland north and south.

Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy, together with Padraig Harrington, said the plan would be welcomed by all involved in golf.

This came as the game's European Tour officials said the Irish Open was on its way to a club that enjoyed one of the world's great links courses.

Clarke said he looked forward to playing an event on his doorstep: "It is fantastic news that an event of the calibre of the Irish Open is coming to Portrush, a world class event on a world class golf course. I know every inch of this course and can vouch for its quality.

"I'm pleased for everybody in this part of the world and the decision to come here reflects the amazing run this relatively small golf community has had in the last couple of years. Best of all, it will be great to sleep in my own bed during that week."

McDowell, who like Clarke has a long association with the Portrush club, said he had always wished to play a major tournament at the venue.

He said: "It has always been a dream of mine to play a big event, be it an Open Championship or a European Tour event, at Royal Portrush Golf Club, and I am going to be very proud to have The European Tour come to the town where I learned to play golf.

"It will be great to show The European Tour the excellent set-up at Royal Portrush. It is probably one of the best set-ups of a links golf course in the world and it will also be great to showcase the beautiful north coast of Ireland."

McIlroy said: "The course holds great memories for me; from watching my dad play in the North of Ireland there as a toddler to playing in it myself as a 15 year old and shooting a course record 61. It's a superb set-up and players new to the course are going to love it.

"The rescheduling of the Irish Open to late June is also a great plus given that the Open Championship takes place three weeks later.

"Hosting an event on one of the best links courses in the world that close to an Open Championship, is sure to generate a strong field."

Harrington also welcomed the plan and said: "It is great news that there will be a major sporting event of the calibre of the Irish Open going to Northern Ireland this year and with the recent Major Championship successes of Graeme, Rory and Darren, it is an inspired move.

"Personally, I have many great memories of playing golf in the North of Ireland Championship at Royal Portrush Golf Club, which quickly became my favourite course in the world.

"The Northern Irish public love their golf, always turn out in great numbers, and I'm sure will generate a great atmosphere."

George O'Grady, chief executive of The European Tour, said he applauded the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Government for supporting the plan.

"We are following on from a truly special two years for Northern Irish golfers on the world stage and we are delighted to be able to recognise their achievements in this way," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


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