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Ulster is Open to sharing

By Dermot Gilleece

The financial burden of staging the Irish Open without a sponsor could be shared between north and south following the decision to bring this year's tournament to Royal Portrush.

The event clearly places excessive demands on the public purse on either side of the border, but a return to alternate stagings of the tournament, as was the case for more than two decades after the Irish Open was launched in 1927, may now be the way forward.

For that period, until after the 1953 staging at Belvoir Park when the championship was discontinued, it was organised by the GUI whose choice of venues emphasised their status as an all-Ireland body.

And by predicting a “stable” future for the Irish Open, European Tour chief executive George O'Grady has signalled the revival of a proud tournament tradition in Northern Ireland.

Now, the objective must be to ensure that this year's staging at Royal Portrush (June 28-July 1) becomes an ongoing tribute to the achievements of recent Major champions and in particular their associations with this links.

And of course there is also the glorious opportunity of reviving this tradition by returning to the north after the 2013 staging at Carton House.

So destructive were The Troubles that one can easily forget Northern Ireland having had its own tour event in the Gallaher Ulster Open at Shandon Park (1965 to 1970) and at Malone in 1971, its last staging.

Then there was the Hennessy Tournament won four times by Christy O'Connor Snr from 1957 to 1963 and the more modest Blaxnit Tournament, quite apart from regular stagings of the Irish Dunlop and the Irish (native) Championship.

With job creation an obvious priority all over the island, much good can be done through golf tourism and when images of Royal Portrush are beamed worldwide next June, we can claim with total justification that the viewer is seeing one of the world's truly great courses.

Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke have done their bit by

amassing six Major championships.

Meanwhile, Louis Oosthuizen won the Africa Open by two shots from fellow South African Tjaart van der Walt in East London yesterday . The two players shared the overnight lead, but a six-under-par round of 67 gave defending champion Oosthuizen the title.

Oosthuizen admitted he knew his final-round battle with Van der Walt would not be an easy one.

“It was a real dogfight for most of the day,” Oosthuizen said.

“I remember watching Tjaart when I was an amateur and it was just great seeing him play to his potential today.

“He played really well. He's one of those who won't go away. He's not going to mess it up — he's too consistent for that.”

Belfast Telegraph


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