Portstewart has ‘raised bar’ ahead of Irish Open

Portstewart Golf Club will play host to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open this week
Portstewart Golf Club will play host to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open this week

Thousands of visitors are expected in Portstewart over the next few days as the Irish Open tees off in the town.

One Portstewart businessman believes the buzz of the event will have an effect on the seaside town for years to come.

Harry's Shack owner and manager Donal Doherty

Harry's Shack owner and manager Donal Doherty

Donal Doherty, who runs Harry’s Shack – a restaurant on Portstewart Strand which overlooks the course – said the town has “raised the bar” ahead of the Dubai Duty Free sponsored tournament.

He said: “It’s nothing short of brilliant to have the Irish Open here.

“The town itself is looking fantastic with all its signage. There’s a few unsightly things they’ve tidied up and I’ve never seen it looking better.”

Mr Doherty, who is from Buncrana in Co Donegal, said he has invested ahead of the expected surge in visitor numbers to incorporate a new outdoor covered area where casual diners can grab a bite to eat and a drink.

He will also be drafting in staff from his other restaurant in Donegal to give workers a break over what is sure to be one of the busiest weekends in Portstewart’s history.

Mr Doherty said his restaurant – which has been open for nearly three years – had been booked up for two nights of the event, one of which would involve many of the pro-am players tonight and the other on Saturday. He said diners could still be accomodated on other nights and expected Thursday, Friday and Sunday to be particular busy.

He added: “One of the complaints about the Irish Open at Portrush was that people couldn’t leave the course, but thankfully in Portstewart they will be able to leave the course and explore the town.

“Luckily for me, I’m right next door. I’m looking at the players teeing off on the first tee.”

He said that road closures and parking difficulties would prove inconvenient, but overall the event was a massive boost for the town.

Of the legacy of hosting the Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club he said: “Portstewart’s prestige has gone up because of the Irish Open. Perhaps it had been seen as the younger brother of Portrush beforehand but now it’s being spoken of in its own right.

“It’s where the Irish Open is taking place and people are coming here from all over the world because they want to play it.

“They started coming months ago – a higher end international golf player – North Americans, European groups who are spending more than the average person to be honest with you.

“It’s not just about the week, it’s about the whole year and beyond. Anyone coming for the first time will have a fantastic impression to pass on.”

The line-up for today’s pro-am challenge includes NI actors Jamie Dornan and James Nesbitt, singer Shane Filan of Westlife, TV presenter Vernon Kay, Hollywood actor Aidan Quinn and football manager Pep Guardiola.

Big name golfers taking part in the Irish Open include host Rory McIlroy, world number two Hideki Matsuyama, Olympic champion Justin Rose and Masters winner Danny Willett.

It will be the first time a major international recording artist will have performed at the event when Two Door Cinema Club open proceedings today.