No date yet for British Open at Royal Portrush

Co Antrim course confirmed as an Open venue but Major may not take place as early as 2019

The British Open will return to Royal Portrush in Co Anrtim, possibly in 2019.

The British Open will return to Royal Portrush in Co Anrtim, possibly in 2019.

 

It’s official. Golf’s oldest Major championship – is to return to Royal Portrush, possibly as soon as 2019 - 68 years after it was last staged on the famed Antrim links.

The R&A, golf’s ruling body which organises the championship, has confirmed the north coast club as the host venue at an official news conference in Portrush this afternoon.

Peter Dawson, chairman of the R&A championship committee – admitted the decision was the world’s worst kept secret. Formally inviting Royal Portrush to rejoin the rota for the Open Championship, Dawson said: “It is a truly great links course. Royal Portrush will be an excellent venue in every way.”

Portrush confirmed as Open venue

Referring to planned changes to the course and beyond, Dawson said he could not confirm a date when the Open would return. But he said 2019 would be a target, although he admitted it may take a year or two longer before the course was ready.

Acknowledging the “passionate support” for golf throughout Ireland, Dawson complimented the club’s “rich heritage” and the contribution made to world golf by Irish golfers, not least local boy Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy who shot a course record when he was 15 and former Open champion Darren Clarke.

The event was last staged on the Dunluce championship links – the only time it has been staged outside of Scotland or England – in 1951, when Max Faulkner triumphed and picked up a winner’s cheque for £300.

He said the gap of 60 years since the last Open was played on the north coast was “too long,” but he added: “We are very excited about bringing it back.”

Asked how much would be invested to make the required changes to the course and facilities, Dawson said the R&A would invest “millions” but added “they are delighted to do so”.

First Minister Peter Robinson said the Stormont Executive would also invest “millions”, adding: “We will get a return, perhaps 10-fold”.

Asked if he R&A feared disruption from street disturbances during the marching season, Dawson echoed comments by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness that Northern Ireland had “suffered reputational damage” during the Troubles. But he insisted this was now in the past.

“If we thought there was a security problem here we wouldn’t be making this announcement,” he said.

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