IRISH OPEN: Portstewart prepares for feast of golf

England's Justin Rose on the 18th green during a practice round at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com
England's Justin Rose on the 18th green during a practice round at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

The final preparations are almost complete in Portstewart as the popular seaside town gets set to welcome a massive influx of visitors to the Irish Open

The tournament will see some of the world’s top golfers including Holywood’s Rory McIlroy and world number two Hideki Matsuyama from Japan take to the fairways of Portstewart Golf Club.

In 2012 when the event was won at Royal Portrush by Ryder Cup star Jamie Donaldson an attendance of 131,000 over six days set a tour record and this year similar, if not higher figures are expected.

2011 Open champion Darren Clarke certainly knows his way around a links, and will be keen to give a good account of himself in front of a home crowd as will the other ‘local lad’ Graeme McDowell as they battle it out for what is set to be the biggest event in the tournament’s history with an increased prize fund of more than £5 million.

The festival of golf gets under way with a host of famous faces from the world of sport, television and film teeing-off in Portstewart for the Irish Open Pro-Am as the buzz at Portstewart GC and the tented village the area builds, business people in Portstewart are gearing up for what they hope will be a profitable event for them too.

Five years ago when the tournament came to neighbouring Portrush, many business owners were left feeling aggrieved and the anticipated boost for their businesses scuppered when fans were banned from leaving the Royal Portrush course, making it the Irish Open that was closed to the town.

Golfers make their way along the second fairway during a practice round at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

Golfers make their way along the second fairway during a practice round at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

However, the harsh lessons of Portrush appeared to have been learnt in Portstewart thanks to numerous meetings between the organisers, Causeway Coast and Glens, Coleraine Chamber and local businesses.

Traders have laid on special golf-themed promotions, there is a programme of entertainment of musical entertainment, a fan zone and big screen so that people can follow what’s going on.

Coleraine Chamber President Anthony Newman believes lessons have been learned from Portrush 2012.

“Both Causeway Coast & Glens Council and the European Tour have been engaging heavily with local businesses and residents,” he said.

A golf fan shields from the rain while watching the practice day at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

A golf fan shields from the rain while watching the practice day at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

“There has been an extension entertainment programme that’s been put on down on the Promenade to encourage visitors to visit the town.”