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Famous faces launch build-up for historic Open at Portrush

It was a night of glitz and glamour as Tourism NI marked the start of the official build-up to The 148th Open at Royal Portrush.

The event, under the theme of 'We've Come A Long Way', saw famous faces from the world of sport, music, media, television and the arts gather at Titanic Belfast.

A short film by award winning director and producer Martin Stalker was unveiled, set to an original poem by local poet Paula Matthews, and narrated by actors Ian McElhinney, Bronagh Waugh, Saoirse-Monica Jackson and Shaun Blaney. It was accompanied by an original score composed and performed by Belfast-born virtuoso pianist Michael McHale.

A sporting panel included record-breaking champion jockey Sir Anthony McCoy and four-time Superbike world champion Jonathan Rea, who shared their experiences of representing Northern Ireland on the world stage.

Major winners Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke also sent their support and golf commentator Peter Alliss was interviewed.

Speaking at the event, Tourism NI chairman Terence Brannigan said: "The ambitious plans set 10 years ago have transformed Northern Ireland and our ambitions for the future are just as big. Our golfing story is a global success and that has brought us right here tonight as we look forward to 190,000 fans and visitors from across the globe descending on Royal Portrush in July for the biggest sporting event ever held in Northern Ireland.

"The 148th Open will leave a legacy that will benefit Northern Ireland for years to come. It will boost our reputation as a premier destination for international events and gives a well-earned boost to the development of our hard-working tourism businesses.

"Together with the R&A, our colleagues in Causeway Coast and Glens Council, volunteers, contributors, golf clubs and tourism businesses, we will deliver not only an incredible event, but a true Northern Ireland experience. It will lead us all to Sunday, July 21, when the final putt will be sunk and the famous Claret Jug will be held aloft."

R&A chief executive said: "We are very much looking forward to staging a successful and memorable championship in July when we will welcome tens of thousands of fans to the famous Dunluce Links to enjoy this historic occasion."

The 148th Open will be held at Royal Portrush from July 18-21

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