Royal Portrush Welcomes the Irish Open
By Liam Cassin
For the first time in nearly 60 years, the Irish Open golf tournament will be held in Northern Ireland this year. The decision was made by the European Tour in January that the Open will take place at Royal Portrush on the rugged north coast of County Antrim from Thursday 28th June to Sunday July 1st.
It didn’t take long for Ireland’s greatest golfing stars to start chiming in on the wisdom of the Tour’s decision to stage the Open at Portrush.
Current British Open champion Darren Clarke was present at the announcement at Portrush on January 6th and said that it would be “an awesome venue for the event … it’s going to be an unbelievable week.”
Reigning US Open champion Rory McIlroy immediately pledged to play at the tournament: “I’m delighted that I was able to work on my schedule that I can play in the Irish Open,” said McIlroy.
Clarke, along with 2010 US Open champ Graeme McDowell has strong connections with Portrush, and both will be acting as ambassadors for the course which celebrates its 125th anniversary next year.
McDowell tweeted his fans: “Fantastic news on the Irish Open 2012 coming to Royal Portrush. Always been a dream of mine to play a top event in my home town.”
Padraig Harrington called the decision as an “inspired move,” and said that Portrush was his favorite golf course in the world.”
Harrington is not alone in his praise. Golf Magazine has listed Royal Portrush as the 12th best course in the world. It is the links masterpiece of architect Harry Colt and Mother Nature. The Club was founded in 1888 and boasts two Championship courses, the Dunluce Course and the more intimate Valley Course. Both are noted for their stunning views of the north Atlantic. On a clear day you can see Scotland if you look one way and Donegal if you look the other.
Charles McGrath of The New York Times describes his experience of playing Portrush as follows: “The course winds its way back inland, twisting and undulating, until it comes to a heart stopping pause at Calamity Corner. This hole, the hardest par 3 I’ve ever seen, plays 210 yards, uphill and into the wind to a green on the side of a cliff. I retired to the upstairs bar … and began the slow process of returning to our accustomed selves—the ones who play the ordinary, earthbound kind of golf.”
This year’s Open has a prize fund of at least €2 million and with that at stake it is sure to attract the best players the tour has to offer.
Golf is a major sport in Northern Ireland and has been for some time. As well as the stellar courses of Royal Portrush and Royal County Down—also mentioned regularly in lists of the world’s best courses—there are are over 90 excellent parkland, heathland and links courses, each one with its own distinct personality. The unique scenery and challenging weather conditions (think four seasons in one day) make a golfing experience in Northern Ireland unlike any other.