Northern Ireland news

The Open at Royal Portrush created a milestone occasion

The Open has seen more than 200,000 spectators descend on Royal Portrush Golf Club. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

IT was without doubt one of the most important weeks in the history of golf in Ireland.

Millions of pounds of investment and countless man-hours over the past four years went into seeing The Open finally come to fruition.

Played out on the idyllic fairways of Royal Portrush, the contest was beamed to a global television audience of around 600 million.

And from the moment the gates of Royal Portrush opened last Sunday, fans arrived in unprecedented numbers – an estimated 237,750 over the course of the event.

It has been a unique opportunity to showcase what is on offer in this part of the world, and has brought huge economic benefits.

Hotels, guest houses, bars, restaurants and shops have been boosted. Homes in the surrounding areas were rented out, with some householders raking in reportedly eye-watering sums of money.

Local tourism is estimated to have soared by 40 per cent at £200?million for the year, including £80?million for the championship week.

The positive impact of hosting golf's original championship is expected to be felt for years to come, with many visitors set to return to the north coast long after the competition is over.

The 148th Open Championship also led to a multi-million-pound makeover for Portrush.

The town underwent a £17m regeneration scheme, taking two-and-a-half years to complete. Works included a £6m public realm scheme, a £5.6m train station and £500,000 to revitalise shop fronts.

There has also been an upgrade to the course at Royal Portrush, regarded as one of the world's finest, that will be there to be enjoyed for years to come.

Among the changes undertaken by the R&A, golf's ruling authority, were the creation of two new holes on the challenging links courses.

Miles of pipework and control cable were installed, as well as the creation of three miles of roads and an underground tunnel to allow more spectators onto the course.

The years of planning and preparation, the work undertaken and the golf played out on fairways over the last week has been phenomenal.

The week, anticipated and eagerly awaited by so many for so long, has been relished and enjoyed with pride.

It was a moment for Royal Portrush to shine. And shine it did.

With the R&A revealing the course will become an integral part of its rota for The Open over the next decade, there can be no mistaking the success that has been achieved.

It is clear that the work undertaken in the last four years was not just to create a milestone occasion for Royal Portrush, but for the island of Ireland.

It was test to see if it could be done, and without doubt, that test was passed with flying colours.

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