Open legacy to last 30 or 40 years: Council

Royal Portrush. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Royal Portrush. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire.

The town of Portrush stands to make gains from staging The Open golf championship for 30 or 40 years after the event has happened.

That was the message Causeway Coast and Glens Council members heard during an update on the regeneration strategy for the resort.

“This is not about today or tomorrow but about the next decade and the next decade,” said Alan Jeffers, Portrush Regeneration Project Manager.

“It is the key that unlocks funds from central government.

“It is not about a deadline of 2019 and The Open. This is about momentum and legacy.”

Ballymoney councillor Ian Stevenson welcomed the news but raised the issue of traders’ complaints about lack of trade during the Irish Open.

Mr Jeffers explained that the organisers of the Irish Open operated a system whereby once a spectator was on the course, they were not permitted to exit and re-enter.

This caused upset among some traders in the town of Portrush who said they were not able to avail of increased trade due to this rule.

However, he added, the Royal and Ancient, organisers of The Open operate a different admission policy so that will not be a an issue.

“It is not over-exaggerating to say that this will be on a whole new level,” added Mr Jeffers.

Portrush councillor Norman Hillis who runs a shop in the town said that many traders thought they were going to make “a clear fortune” during the week of the Irish Open but added that the real benefit has come after the event thanks to the worldwide exposure both the local golf courses and the north coast has received.

“We have got a lot out of it since then, people are coming from all over the world to play our courses.

“I’m certain The Open is going to be twenty times better”, he added.

Dunloy councillor Philip McGuigan told the meeting: “Having watched Shane Lowry win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio and the amount of publicity that was generated from that, The Open is ten levels above that.

“This island has produced some great golfers over the last ten years and we are lucky that we can showcase our golf courses too.

“We will be the envy of everyone in 2019.

“Soccer has the World Cup, cycling has the Tour de France and golf has The Open, this is a huge opportunity.

“And I’m sure if there were any mistakes made during the Irish Open, those mistakes will be learned from.”

Renovation work has already started to have Royal Portrush golf course ready to stage The Open Championship for the first time since 1951.

Renovation work on the course - including designing two new holes - costing millions of pounds is underway to ensure that when the club get the long awaited call they are ready to proceed.

John Bamber, chairman of the tournament committee, said earlier this month: “This is a magnificent development they are placing in Portrush Golf Club which will be really long term, potentially over three Open Championships.”