Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Success of The Open in Portrush credit to our 'can-do' attitude

Shane Lowry
Shane Lowry

Editor's Viewpoint

There were two winners in The Open Championship which ended last evening - Shane Lowry, who captured the Claret Jug, and Royal Portrush Golf Club, which captured the hearts of golf fans, players and officials.

Once again an Irish golfer proved that this island punches well above its weight when it comes to taking on and beating the world's elite players. Lowry's victory was the ninth by an Irish golfer in one of the Majors since 2007, and the 10th if Fred Daly's Open victory in 1947 is also included.

Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington and now Shane Lowry have brought great honour to this island, north and south, and have proved to be great ambassadors for all parts both through their exploits and by their encouraging words to anyone who wants to visit.

 

It took 68 years for The Open to return to Portrush, at least half of them for very understandable reasons given the three decades of conflict here, but the last four days have proven beyond all doubt that Northern Ireland is a very different place from the image that many previously held of it.

To stage an event of this magnitude meant that there had to be total co-operation between all the stakeholders and that was achieved. Indeed, there was united political backing in 2015 for the drive to bring The Open to the province - one of the few things the DUP and Sinn Fein agreed on unequivocally.

The organisation of the event - from the logistics such as transport to bring a near-record 237,000 fans to the course, to the finance needed to stage it - was all the more remarkable given that Northern Ireland has been without a functioning government for two-and-a-half years.

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If anything, that demonstrated the can-do attitude of the population at large who, if given a task to perform, get on with it whatever the obstacles. There is an innate spirit in the people of Northern Ireland which has enabled this place to continue working whether during years of conflict or years of political stasis.

The hundreds, perhaps thousands, of volunteers who turned out in good weather and foul during The Open deserve a special mention. They did not have the opportunity to see shelter like the fans during the worst of the rainfall, or to go home early if their favourite golfer was finished his round. Instead, they stuck to their posts and ensured everything kept running smoothly.

The fans also deserve commendation, not only for the numbers who turned out, but for the way they conducted themselves, how they respected all the players and how they encouraged the Irish golfers.

There was obvious disappointment when Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke cruelly missed the cut for the final two days' play, but the thousands of spectators in the stands and on the course did not let that ruin their enjoyment.

Almost to a man or woman, they got behind Shane Lowry and the scenes on the final green were more party than play.

It was a unique atmosphere for a sport where protocol can sometimes lead to a certain stuffiness, but no one seemed to mind as the songs rang out and the flag of the Republic of Ireland was waved enthusiastically.

There was universal approval of the event from experienced commentators and players, and that should convince the sport's governing body that Portrush should see more of the most prestigious tournament in golf, and that it will be placed on the rota for future stagings of The Open.

Belfast Telegraph

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