Royal Portrush to stage Irish Open

After an absence of almost 60 years, and following two hugely successful stagings of the championship at Killarney Golf and Fishing Club, the Irish Open will return to Northern Ireland this summer when the classic links at Royal Portrush hosts the 2012 event from Thursday June 28 to Sunday July 1.

The championship was last staged in Northern Ireland in 1953 when Scotsman Eric Brown won at the Belvoir Park Golf Club in south Belfast and will be the tenth time in total, although the first since the birth of The European Tour in 1972.

Furthermore, The European Tour is delighted to announce that the 2013 Irish Open will be played at Carton House Golf Club in County Kildare, the venue for the championship in both 2005 and 2006.

Before the return to County Kildare next year, however, the spotlight will focus on Royal Portrush this summer – the fourth time the venue has staged the championship, the other occasions being in 1930 when Englishman Charles Whitcombe triumphed; 1937 when another Englishman Bert Gadd won and, most recently, in 1947 when the legendary Irish professional Harry Bradshaw took the first of his two Irish Open titles, the other also coming in the north at Belvoir Park in 1949.

Royal Portrush’s Dunluce Course also staged The Open Championship in 1951 when Englishman Max Faulkner’s three under par total of 285 was enough to take the Claret Jug by two shots from Argentina’s Antonio Cerdá, while the last Major Championship action at the venue came in 2004 when American Pete Oakley won the Senior Open Championship.

In total, Royal Portrush has staged the Senior Open Championship on six occasions, the previous five coming in a row between 1995 and 1999, with the latter being the most memorable for the home spectators when Ireland’s Christy O’Connor Jnr triumphed.

The new venue for the 2012 Irish Open will continue to focus the attention of the golfing world on Northern Ireland which has enjoyed a glorious spell at the pinnacle of the game over the last two years; following on from the ground-breaking achievement of three Major Championship victories in 13 months by Ireland’s Padraig Harrington in 2007/2008.

Graeme McDowell set the ball rolling in June 2010 with his memorable victory in the US Open Championship at Pebble Beach before handing the trophy over 12 months later to Holywood’s Rory McIlroy, following his astonishing eight shot victory at Congressional Country Club in June 2011.

The Major Championship baton was then passed to another Portrush man, Darren Clarke, who provided an emotional and memorable Open Championship victory at Royal St George’s in July 2011 before Ballymoney’s Michael Hoey captured the prestigious Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews in October 2011.

All are set to receive a hero’s welcome from the crowds who will be expected to flood to the Antrim Coast in their thousands in the last week of June.

Darren Clarke said: “It is fantastic news that an event of the calibre of the Irish Open is coming to Portrush, a world class event on a world class golf course. I know every inch of this course and can vouch for its quality.

“I’m pleased for everybody in this part of the world and the decision to come here reflects the amazing run this relatively small golf community has had in the last couple of years. Best of all, it will be great to sleep in my own bed during that week.”