Coleraine Probus had a look behind the scenes of last year’s Irish Open, when Michael Moss from Portstewart Golf Club came to talk to the members.
Michael started his talk and setting the scene, by giving members a history of the Club and also the Open - and haven’t things changed over the years!
The beginnings of the Golf Club are back in 1889 with an informal group of golfers that went on to found the club in 1894. The club moved to its present site in 1902, although his was a lot smaller than it is today. Michael started working at the club in 1974. In 1981, Philip McIntire brought the rights to the Dunes and Beach (this was later passed to the National Trust), for a bargain price of £17,500.
The club employed a Course Manager in 1984 to develop the links much as they are today. Then in 1994 the land for the Riverside Course was purchased. This put Portstewart into a unique, having three, full size, 18 hole courses in one club.
The first Irish Open was held near Dublin at the Portmarnock Golf Club in 1927. The winner, taking ‘only’ 312 shots over the three days was George Duncan and took the Championship Gold Medal and the first prize of £150.
In August 2016, Michael Moss was surprised by a phone call asking if he thought the next Open could be played at Portstewart. With only 11 months to plan the event, this was no small task. The club had plenty of room for the event, but the shear numbers of people and the requirements for commercial and VIP needs (to say nothing of the TV coverage) was far more challenging.
For Michael the first imperative was the recruitment of the Marshalls - 600 would be required and they were needed every one of the five days of the tournament, and this was a big commitment for anyone. For the first time, the 2017 Open would be part of the Rolex series of tournaments - giving more international status and more pressure. The ‘Village’ was going to be the largest ever assembled, the ‘Commercial Day’ was to be the biggest ever, as was the prize money, £7 million.
The event was a massive success and the press/TV coverage of the five days put a splendid spotlight on our beautiful area. There was an immediate, and continuing, increase in the number of club bookings from people who having watched the TV coverage, now want to visit the area and play on the wonderful Portstewart courses.