Open return to Royal Portrush a possibility

The par-3 third hole at Royal Portrush.

The par-3 third hole at Royal Portrush.

GULLANE, Scotland –– Royal Portrush’s hopes of staging the game’s oldest championship are not dead. That seems to be the message from the R&A.

Many aficionados have been calling for the Open Championship to return to arguably the best links on the Emerald Isle. The 1951 Open Championship was staged at Royal Portrush, when colorful Max Faulkner won the title. It remains the only time the Open Championship has been held off mainland Britain.

Calls for Royal Portrush’s inclusion on the Open Championship rota have increased since last year when the Northern Ireland venue staged a successful Irish Open.

“The main thing that came through for us was the enthusiasm of the Irish golf crowd who supported the event,” Dawson said. “They turned out in very big numbers and were great supporters of golf.”

The R&A sent a delegation to last year’s Irish Open as part of its ongoing study into the viability of taking the Open Championship back to Portrush. Johnny Cole-Hamilton, the R&A’s executive director of championships, headed that delegation and came away impressed.

“It was a hugely successful event, and it was important that we saw how that important event unfolded,” Cole-Hamilton said. “A lot of positives came out of it.”

Cole-Hamilton advised a degree of caution, however.

“There is a huge jump between the Irish Open and the Open Championship in terms of spectators numbers and infrastructure," he said. "This is a long process we are involved in, and we are just in the middle of that.”

Dawson said there is no timetable for making a decision on Royal Portrush – “It’s premature to comment,” he said. He gave hope to Irish golf fans, however, when he said: “It (the successful Irish Open) has not done any damage.”

That’s a far cry from last year when Dawson seemed to dismiss any idea of a return. Royal Portrush supporters will be pleased. This great links could one day return to the Open rota.

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