Monday 23 October 2017

Don't hold breath waiting for Portrush to host British Open

Wales' Jamie Donaldson celebrates winning the Irish Open during day four of the Irish Open at Royal Portrush Golf Club, Portrush. Photo: PA
Wales' Jamie Donaldson celebrates winning the Irish Open during day four of the Irish Open at Royal Portrush Golf Club, Portrush. Photo: PA

Karl MacGinty

HERE on the Emerald Isle, it was widely believed the return of golf's oldest and biggest Major, the British Open, to Royal Portrush would be hastened by last weekend's hugely successful staging of the Irish Open on the famous Dunluce Links.

Well, that ain't necessarily so.

The sight of 30,000-plus people enjoying themselves in relative comfort (despite awful weather) on Saturday and Sunday in Portrush made it appear picture-perfect for the British Open.

Once the 'observers' sent by the R&A returned breathless to St Andrews, we Irish assumed it would only be a matter of time before the Dunluce Links would be restored to the British Open rota.

Wrong.

In fact, I understand that the R&A is unsure how the view of the 2012 Irish Open being a final litmus test for the staging of the British Open in Portrush gathered such momentum.

Given this potentially embarrassing misconception, is it surprising their director of championships, Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, who attended the Irish Open at Portrush last Friday, has not been available for comment?

Last Sunday evening, I emailed the R&A asking when their 'delegation' in Portrush might furnish their report on the Irish Open. The reply confirmed "there were a number of R&A representatives at Portrush," adding "this is fairly typical for a European Tour event in GB&I."

Yes, "Johnnie Cole-Hamilton was in attendance," it continued, explaining he reports to the Championship Committee "on a great many things" and is expected to "share some of his experiences" with them. "But," the message revealed "a formal report has not been requested."

So, it came as little surprise when, the following day, the R&A sent me the statement: "We are delighted the Irish Open was such a great success at Royal Portrush and our congratulations go to Jamie Donaldson on his maiden European Tour victory. Venues for the Open have been announced up to 2016 and, as always, The R&A's Championship Committee will take account of all relevant factors in selecting courses for future years."

Clearly, there are many more hurdles to cross before the British Open returns to the Dunluce Links for the first time since 1961.

For the moment, the people of Portrush though, justifiably proud of staging the greatest Irish Open in memory, shouldn't hold their breath.

Irish Independent

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