Whole island will see dividends of Open in Portrush, says Clarke
Northern Ireland golfing legend Darren Clarke is hopeful that the staging of The Open Championship at Royal Portrush this summer will further boost tourism on the island.
The UK's only Major will return to the north coast for the first time since 1951 when The Open is contested on the Dunluce links from July 18-21.
It will also be the first time that the famous links course will have hosted a high-profile tournament since the 2012 Irish Open - won by Welshman Jamie Donaldson.
The best players in the world will all travel to Northern Ireland for the tournament, with the likes of home favourite Rory McIlroy teeing it up alongside household names such as Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose and Tiger Woods.
Such was the demand for tickets for the event before they even went on sale, the Royal and Ancient (R&A), golf's governing body, made this year's tournament the first Open in history to be an all-ticket affair, and even then all of the tournament days were sold out by the end of August 2018.
That means over 190,000 spectators will enter the course over the four days, with an estimated £80m generated in revenue for the Northern Ireland economy.
And Clarke, who won the 2011 Open at Royal St George's, is confident that this year's tournament will be one of the best editions ever staged.
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"The Open Championship coming up is a massive event," said Clarke. "And to have it at Portrush, the Irish people are even more excited because it is right there on their doorstep.
"I think Royal Portrush was always a well-known golf course and a destination for many foreign visitors to come and play - one of the bucket-list golf courses - but I think that's even more so now.
"I have noticed these past few years since Royal Portrush was awarded The Open Championship, the increase in people coming to play here.
"The views that are going to be broadcast around the world, people will see how good the golf course actually is, will see how fair it is, see how enjoyable it is to play, experience what it is like, and maybe have a couple of liquid libations in the evening to enjoy themselves. I think they will have a great time.
"The last time we had the Open Championship at Royal Portrush was 1951 when Max Faulkner won the tournament. The Open is the one that we all strive for, it is the one that we want."
Clarke is also excited to get the chance to test himself at Royal Portrush, describing it as an honour to have the opportunity to tee it up at a very familiar venue in a Major.
"To see my name on the Claret Jug beside some of the greats to have ever played our sport is a huge honour for me. I will be very proud to be there on my home course, to be playing in the Open Championship," added former Ryder Cup captain Clarke.
"To get to this stage where the best golfers in the world are going to be there playing one of the best golf courses in the world, to highlight what Northern Ireland does have to offer can do nothing but be such a positive impact on all of Northern Ireland… and indeed Ireland."