Belfast Telegraph

Irish Open gives Portstewart 100,000 reasons to celebrate

By Staff Reporter

As the final round of the Irish Open got under way yesterday, it was revealed that almost 100,000 people travelled to the north coast to watch the multi-million pound tournament - representing a major boost to the local economy.

Around 30,000 were at Portstewart Golf Club yesterday to witness Jon Rahm pick up a cool £585,000 after finishing six strokes ahead of the competition.

It was the Spaniard's first European Tour win and has moved him into the world top 10 rankings.

With a total prize fund of £5.4m, this year's treasure chest was the biggest in the history of the competition.

Rahm finished 24 under par - six shots ahead of nearest rivals Richie Ramsay of Scotland and England's Matthew Southgate, who both finished 18 under.

The highest placing for a Northern Ireland player went to Michael Hoey, who finished 30th, recording a score of 11 under.

Rahm joins Seve Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia in an illustrious list of Spanish winners at the Irish Open.

The crowds were joined by a host of celebrities from TV and sport.

Film stars James Nesbitt and Jamie Dornan rubbed shoulders with football royalty such as Man City boss Pep Guardiola and Manchester United hero Harry Gregg.

While there was heartache for Rory McIlroy - who failed to make the cut - the appearance of his new wife Erica lifted the crowds when she turned up to support her husband.

A deflated McIlroy admitted he needs to eliminate "silly mistakes" from his game.

Meanwhile, it was announced that the Irish Open will be returning to Ulster again next year as Ballyliffin Golf Club in Inishowen, Co Donegal, is set to host the prestigious international tournament.

The event could also bring a bonanza for hotels in Derry, which is the nearest city to the Inishowen course.

Ballyliffin club manager John Farren told reporters: "It can't be underestimated the impact this will have on the area."

Mr Farren revealed McIlroy had a long history with the club.

He added: "From a very early stage it was evident to us that Rory McIlroy was going to be the real deal.

"Rory first came to Ballyliffin in 2005 for our Scratch Cups and he and his father Gerry attended every Scratch Cup until he turned professional.

"Rory played in a successful inter-provincial Ulster team there in 2006.

"We made him an honorary member just prior to him turning professional and he was 16 at the time."

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