British Open organisers ‘staggered’ by demand for Royal Portrush

2019 tournament the first ever all-ticket event with all four days sold out since August

Darren Clarke with the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush, which will host the 148th British Open. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Presseye/Inpho

Darren Clarke with the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush, which will host the 148th British Open. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Presseye/Inpho

 

The organisers of golf’s Open Championship have said they are staggered by the level of interest in the tournament’s historic return to Northern Ireland.

The Royal and Ancient described the demand for tickets to see July’s sporting showpiece at Royal Portrush Golf Club as “phenomenal”.

The tournament, which is returning to Northern Ireland and Portrush for the first time in almost 70 years, sold out last August — 10 months before the world’s top golfers tee off on the scenic Causeway Coast. Only tickets for practice days remain.

On a winter planning visit to the course, Mike Woodcock, director of corporate communications at the R&A, said the pace at which tickets went took them by surprise.

“We were confident there would be huge excitement here but I think even we were staggered by just how much there was when the championship days sold out in two months,” he said.

“It was phenomenal really and I think that speaks volumes about the enthusiasm, not only for golf but for sport here in Northern Ireland.

“The Open is one of the world’s greatest sporting events, the world’s greatest golfers will be playing here, and I think it’s just fantastic. We’re seeing a real buzz.”

Due to the anticipated large crowds, this year’s Open was the first ever all-ticketed event in the Major tournament’s history — 190,000 people are expected through the gates.

After meeting club officials, tourism bosses, emergency services and other state agencies involved in putting on the tournament, Mr Woodcock said plans were well ahead of schedule.

The R&A has already predicted that the tournament will deliver an £80 million boost to the local economy, through combined direct spend and the value of the media exposure of the destination.

“Most of all I think it will be the number of golf fans who will come here from around the world, who have seen images of the Open on television and want to come and play here where they have seen Rory (McIlroy) playing, where they have seen Tiger (Woods) playing, and I think that’s what the real benefit is and I think years on from now that will continue,” said Mr Woodcock.

Aine Kearney, from Tourism NI, is co-ordinating efforts to deliver Northern Ireland’s first Open in seven decades.

“This will be broadcast to 80 million homes across 150 countries around the world,” she said.

“And whilst the focus of the attention will be on the golf, what they will also get to see is the absolutely amazing landscape as well as a lot of the stories of the experiences that the players are having, the media are having — you can’t buy that level of exposure.

“That’s why hosting global major events has been such a critical part to our long-term growth strategy and we believe it’s firmly one of the reasons why we are within touching point of becoming a £1 billion industry.

“It’s all about getting those positive messages out — to change the narrative about Northern Ireland and show the people of the world what an exciting, vibrant and beautiful place this is to come and visit.”

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