Portrush confirmed to host Open Championship

Darren Clarke during a press conference at Royal Portrush Golf Club, Co Antrim. Picture by PA Wire

THE world's top golfers will face the challenges of Royal Portrush's famous links course when the Open Championship returns to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years.

Organiser the Royal & Ancient (R&A) said last year that the club had been added to the list of host venues and yesterday confirmed the dates as July 18-21 2019.

A successful staging of the Open would see the major returning more frequently to the Co Antrim course.

Portrush's hosting of the event in 1951 was the only time the golf major was staged outside England or Scotland and will be the biggest sporting event ever held in the north.

R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said he was "delighted" to announce the event's return to Northern Ireland for the 148th staging of the championship.

"We can now begin the countdown to what will be a wonderful festival of golf at one of the sport's truly outstanding venues," he said.

The chairman of Royal Portrush's championship organising committee, John Bamber, said Tuesday's announcement represented "one of the greatest days" in the course's history.

"We are all extremely delighted and excited and it's great to see the clock ticking to the Open Championship at Royal Portrush again," he said.

R&A officials were joined by Acting First Minister Arlene Foster, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and 2011 Open champion Darren Clarke.

"To have the biggest and finest tournament is a very proud moment and the event coming here is a huge step of trust by the R&A," Clarke said.

It has been estimated that the championship could bring between £55m to £70m in the year of the Open to area.

The hosting of the event in 2019 was dependent on course and infrastructure changes to the venue being approved by club members.

Work to create two new holes is under way.

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said it was "wonderful news".

"We will be pulling out all the stops - in Great Britain, the US and in all our important golf markets - to capitalise on the potential of this prestigious sporting event," he said.

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