Big time golf and the Irish Open will be back at Royal Portrush sooner rather than later. But whether The Open returns to the Causeway Coast for the first time since 1951 remains in the hands of the R&A.
As Royal Portrush’s tournament committee boss, John Bamber, said on Sunday: “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”
Yet staging the biggest and most successful European Tour event of all time was the best possible message Royal Portrush could send the mandarins at St Andrews.
The R&A’s director of championships, Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, was at the Irish Open on Friday to see the event in person.
And while he will NOT be giving R&A chief Peter Dawson an official report, record crowds and a flawless park and ride system designed by Ryder Cup consultants made the Irish Open a dream event for fans.
The European Tour pushed the boat out financially, refusing to skimp on its set up.
But it still made a €1m profit which will be ploughed back into the event.
And while the Irish Open will return to Carton House from June 27-30 next year — possibly on the O’Meara Course - a return to Portrush in 2014 is not impossible, despite the fact they the Dunluce links will also host the British Amateur that summer.
The club has achieved its objective of putting Royal Portrush back on the global golfing map and revived hopes of a return to the Open rota and green fees bookings will go through the roof
James Finnigan, the PGA European Tour’s sales and marketing chief, certainly believes the tour will return to Portrush very soon.
Finnigan said: “Why would the European Tour as the owner and organiser of the Irish Open not want to come back to Royal Portrush and Northern Ireland?
“Our boss, George O’Grady, is emotionally attached to Royal Portrush. We put on the best golf tournament that the European Tour has ever staged.
“It has been a week of firsts: first time we’ve ever sold out an event and the first time the tour has been in Northern Ireland.
“The welcome in Northern Ireland has been sensational and the commitment from the Northern Ireland Executive and Royal Portrush has been outstanding.
“Will we be back in 2014? We go everywhere by invitation. But I think Royal Portrush would welcome the Irish Open at some time in the future.
“Who is to say you couldn’t do both the Irish Open and the British Amateur in 2014? If you can do the US Open and US tour event at the same venue in the same year, why can’t we?”
European Tour chief O’Grady knows the R&A has huge financial demands when it comes to staging the Open but believes they now have food for thought.
O’Grady said: “The R&A would have to notice it. We could have stopped the gate a bit higher. We could have transported more people and parked more people and more people could have seen.
“I walked 16 holes and if I had paid money to come in, I wouldn’t have begrudged my fee. There was a great ambience.”