Irish Open a triumph for all of us in Northern Ireland
At the end of the first day's play in the recent Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf tournament, I had the privilege of being invited to visit the competition village as a guest of Tourism Northern Ireland.
As I approached the outskirts of the town, it started to become obvious the scale of the organisation required to deliver this event, as I passed park-and-ride facilities serviced by a steady flow of Translink buses.
In the town itself and on the immediate approaches to the actual course, there was the evidence of a major PSNI operation to keep traffic flowing and inconvenience to local residents to a minimum, with just about every 'no parking' cone possessed by the police placed along the roadside.
The tented village was impressive, with every need of visitors and spectators catered for. The income generated for local companies involved in supplying the logistics for the village was obvious. The local business economy will accept this type of boost any time.
Having spoken with some of the young people around the site, who were employed in temporary positions during the competition, it was clear they were delighted with the opportunity to earn some extra holiday cash.
Such a competition would be nothing without the big name golfers and, thanks to the continuing efforts of our own Rory McIlroy, the quality of entrants was high and the numbers large.
Speaking with John McGrillen, chief executive of Tourism Northern Ireland, I learned that the entire package was put together within a one-year timescale. John and his staff are deserving of the highest praise in helping pull it together.
The members of Portstewart Golf Club should also be very proud of their course and their club officials.
It would be remiss not to congratulate all the other agencies involved in delivering the event, along with the support of the many sponsors, not least the main sponsor, Dubai Duty Free.
The long-term benefit of this competition will be increased worldwide interest in all our wonderful golf courses, with many international recreational golfers tempted to visit our shores and give them a go. Well done to everyone involved. Now bring on The Open Championship at Royal Portrush in 2019.
Alan Chambers MLA
UUP economy spokesperson