Portrush to make way for arrival of Open in three years' time
IT HAS finally been confirmed. The 148th Open Championship will be played at Royal Portrush in 2019.
There has been speculation on the matter since the Irish Open was staged at the Dunluce Links last year and, on Tuesday, the R&A rubber-stamped the news at a press conference in Portrush. It will be a return to the venue for golf's oldest and probably most prestigious professional competition. It's 68 years since Max Faulkner lifted the Claret Jug as winner in 1951.
The staging of the event at Royal Portrush from July 18-21 2019 will be only the second time the championship has been held outside of England or Scotland. The event could pour millions into the local economy and also generate extra tourism. Acting first minister Arlene Foster and deputy first minister Martin McGuinness were at the press conference and gave a warm welcome to the Open announcement.
“Securing the Open Championship at Royal Portrush in 2019 and twice again in the future is a magnificent achievement,” said Foster.
“It is a key part of Tourism NI's events strategy and is crucial to consolidating our efforts to grow visitor numbers and visitor spend.”
McGuinness added: The potential economic return of £70million makes the Open coming to Portrush in 2019 a success story, not just for golf and golfing fans but our entire economy. I commend the R&A for their confidence and commitment to Royal Portrush.”
He added: “For our part, we stand ready to help ensure the necessary infrastructure is in place and ensure that the focus remains on the golf course. I have no doubt that the 2019 Open at Royal Portrush, which will be broadcast to half-a-billion people worldwide, will be a stunning sporting success.”
There to make the expected announcement were Peter Unsworth, chairman of the R&A's Championship committee and Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A. Former winner Darren Clarke, a Royal Portrush member and whose house overlooks the Dunluce links, was in attendance too. And so was a proud Royal Portrush club captain Richard McLaughlin.
“This is going to be huge for Ireland as a whole,” said Clarke.
“To have the world's biggest and best golf championship played at such a fantastic venue as Royal Portrush, with all the passion that the Irish fans will bring to the event, is going to be amazing.”
Dunluce has always been recognised as a jumbo course, but it will be even more so after work on the track is completed in time for the 2019 Open. Two new holes, taking in land from the Valley Course, are being created adding an extra 200 yards, with the overall length being increased to 7,337 yards.
The new seventh and eighth holes will utilise land from the Valley Course to develop a new par five hole, playing down into the Valley encompassing that course's sixth hole. There will, then, be a par four hole playing back over the fifth into duneland. The new holes will replace the present 17th and 18th on Dunluce with that area to be used for the Spectator Village and championship infrastructure.
The second green will be moved to lengthen the par five by 40 yards and the current 10th hole, which will be The Open's 12th, will have the line altered and increased by 50 yards The present eighth green, which will become the 10th at The Open, will also be reshaped and several new back tees will be created.
The number of bunkers is also to be increased to 62 but will still have less sand traps than any of the other courses which host The Open.
Work on the course is due to be completed by the middle of next year and it looks as if some disruption will be caused to the staging of the traditional North of Ireland Amateur Open Championship over the next few years.