Northern Irish golf course Royal Portrush has been confirmed as a future host venue for the Open Championship by the event’s governing body the Royal & Ancient (R&A).
Although a date for a future Northern Irish edition of the Open has not been identified, the earliest it can be held will be 2019. However, this depends on infrastructure work being approved and completed.
The County Antrim club’s members will now be asked to ratify the proposal to enable preparations for the event, which is being billed as the largest sporting event ever to be held in the country. Independent research suggests that the Open is likely to deliver a combined economic impact and destination marketing benefit of £70m (€89.2m/$117.3m) for Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson said: “The decision to bring the Open back to Northern Ireland is a tremendous vote of confidence in the game here and follows the huge success of the Irish Open in 2012, the first in European Tour history to sell out. The R&A’s decision to invite Portrush to join the Open rota is a ringing endorsement of Northern Ireland and I know we will deliver an event that we can all be proud of.”
Royal Portrush last hosted the event in 1951 – the only time in the major championship’s history that it has been staged outside of England or Scotland. The course successfully hosted the Irish Open in 2012, leading the European Tour setting up the event for returns to the venue in 2015 and 2017.
Peter Unsworth, chairman of the R&A’s championship committee, added: “We welcome the support of the Northern Ireland executive and the various agencies involved who will play a key role in the Championship. There is huge enthusiasm for golf in Northern Ireland and throughout Ireland and we expect fantastic support for the Open when it returns.”
Last month, the R&A denied reports that it was close to taking the Open back to Northern Ireland, despite Royal Portrush being mooted as a potential venue for the US PGA Championship last November when American golf’s governing body revealed it was looking into possibly staging the final major of the year on foreign soil by 2020.
The R&A’s change of heart comes as a boost to Northern Irish major winners Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke, all of whom have been vocal supporters of the Open taking place in their homeland.
The 143rd Open Championship will be played at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake from July 17-20.