"I would love to see a British Open round here one day. Royal Portrush is a far better course than Troon. This is one of the real great Open courses."
Yes, all three of the Northern Irish Golfers who have now won three of the last six golf majors* have some connection to the only course outside Great Britain to have hosted the Open Championship. That was in 1951, four years after the last Northern Irish winner of the Open Fred Daly.
Admittedly the next three open courses are known:
- 2012 Royal Lytham and St. Annes
- 2013 Murifield
- 2014 Royal Liverpool, Hoylake
The course has on six occasions held the Senior British Open, which is when Gary Player made his comment above. Before we had yet another Northern Irish winned today, R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said:
"Obviously there's much emotion about Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy's victories and why don't we go back to Northern Ireland and perhaps Portrush in particular, and I understand that.
“You can't, however, base where you hold The Open on where players come from. I think that should be obvious to anyone. Portrush is a terrific golf course and may well be strong enough for an Open, but as we all know, there are other issues of infrastructure, accommodation, roads, what would the commercial success or otherwise of the championship be, that need consideration.
"We are not ruling it out by any stretch of the imagination, but it would have to meet all those criteria, and I don't think it's something that's going to be in any way imminent, but it's certainly something we'll have a look at again in view of the success of the golfers from that part of the world."
Now I agree that we shouldn't be basing where we place a Tournament solely on where the best golfers come from. I also agree that there is a lot of work needed to build up infrastructure near Portrush or any other links course to make it viable. But in 140 Opens we have only had one open in Northern Ireland, surely it is time to ensure that another one comes this way. By far one of the most challenging courses Royal Portrush though a short course at 6845 plays long and difficult. Having watched a number of those Seniors Opens.
There are a number of high quality hotels now in Northern Ireland, admittedly not many near the course at Portrush. The road up to Portrush from the Airports at Belfast or London/Derry have room for improvement as well. So yes there is work to be done. But we need to build on, as Rory McIlroy tweeted us becoming the Golfing capital of the world, we need to attract a European Tour event here on a regular basis, possibly at Royal Belfast or some other course. But we also need to work towards getting an Open over here, that is most likely to happen at Royal Portrush, so we need to work with people who want to bring the Championships over here, often enough to get us unto the cycle of venues.
If we can we should do what we can to get golf raised here in Northern Ireland by attracting these sort of tournaments.
* Indeed now three of the last five open have been won by golfers from this Island when you count in Padraig Harrington's wins in 2007-08.