Open Championship to make stop at Northern Ireland's Royal Portrush.
Tournament organizers the Royal & Ancient said that the Open Championship "is set to be held outside England and Scotland for the first time in over 60 years when it returns to Northern Ireland's Royal Portrush," according to Padraic Halpin of REUTERS.
The Open Championship "was last held at the Northern Irish links course in 1951, the only other time the major championship was held anywhere but England and Scotland, and could be played again at the venue as early as 2019." R&A CEO Peter Dawson said, "I suppose this is just about the world's worst kept secret. We couldn't be more excited about bringing the Open back here to one of the world's truly great links courses. There is a rich heritage here. It will give the game here and the whole region huge exposure." Sporadic sectarian violence "still persists in parts of Northern Ireland" though and "often breaks out when marches held by rival communities reach their peak in July, the time of year when the Open is held."
Dawson said that "if organizers thought there was a security problem, they would not be making the announcement and Northern Irish politicians said it was a major vote of confidence in the province and would provide a huge boost to a once non-existent tourism sector" (REUTERS, 6/16
). In Belfast, Peter Hutcheon reported it "will be the club's members which will ultimately decide if the Open is to go ahead in 2019."
Local golf fans "might expect that they will jump at the chance and simply rubber-stamp the decision, but given that the R&A will insist on a fairly extensive renovation of the course, it might not be quite so simple."
The sticking point "is the likely demand for the reconfiguration of the 17th and 18th holes which would need to be made to accommodate the familiar grandstands which line both sides of the fairway and surround the green on the closing hole during the Championship." The R&A "encountered a similar problem when it brought the Open back to Hoylake" -- the venue again next month -- in '06 for the first time in 50 years.
On that occasion, Royal Liverpool "was able to switch the order of the holes for the Championship, making it a simple matter to revert back once all the grandstands had been packed away" (BELFAST TELEGRAPH, 6/16