The Open returning to Northern Ireland

The Open Championship will return to Northern Ireland and Royal Portrush Golf Club for the first time since 1951, it was announced by the R&A.

Officials hope the return will come in 2019, depending on work on the  infrastructure of the Dunluce Links and in Portrush, located in County Antrim, being approved and completed.

Sectarian violence in Northern Ireland was one of the reasons the oldest golf championship has not been held in the region for more than 60 years, since Max Faulkner won the title at Royal Portrush.

“The history here has caused some reputational damage over time,” Chief Executive Peter Dawson of the R&A said. “Everyone knows that, but we’re very happy that that’s in the past. If we thought there was a security problem here, we would not be making this announcement.

“Much work lies ahead to prepare for the Open’s return. There are planned course enhancements and infrastructure developments, which will require ratification by the club’s membership and by the planning authorities. So we will not be able to announce a date until these permissions are in place. 2019 is the earliest it can be, but it maybe that we have to wait a year or two longer than that.

“It’s been over 60 years since the Open was played here and it’s been too long.”

Royal Portrush hosted six British Senior Open Championships, but the successful staging of the 2012 Irish Open Championship on the course convinced the R&A that it was time to return to Northern Ireland.

Northern Irish stars Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke, major champions all, have campaigned in recent years for the Open to return to their home.

“It is wonderful for the area, for Northern Ireland and the whole of Ireland that one of the biggest sporting events in the world is coming here,” said Clarke, the 2011 Open champion who has a home on the course at Royal Portrush.

“It’s just massive, with pictures of Royal Portrush being beamed around the world to people who haven’t seen how beautiful it is.”

The R&A estimates the Open Championship will generate about £70 million for the Northern Ireland economy, and Royal Portrush reportedly would become part of the regular rotation for golf’s third major of the year.

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