The news that Royal Portrush will host the British Amateur Championship in 2014 will revive hopes that the Dunluce Links is a step closer to staging The Open for the first time since 1951.
Following recent major wins by Portrush members Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke and with the Irish Open set to return to Portrush this summer, the awarding of the British Amateur will be seen as another chance to prove it’s capable of hosting the game’s biggest major.
Club captain Philip Tweedie said: “We are absolutely delighted to once again host the Amateur Championship in 2014 and look forward to welcoming the world top amateurs.
“Since the event was last played at Royal Portrush in 1993, work has been carried out on the links with eight new tees constructed, now making the course 7,143 yards long, producing a good test for the competitors.”
It will be the third time that Royal Portrush hosts one of the world’s biggest amateur events but while the golf course will is more than good enough, commercial concerns coupled to worries concerns over a potential cap on crowd numbers and the accommodation problems that are emerging in the run up to this year’s Irish Open at Portrush may well prove to be the biggest stumbling blocks to an Open return.
The R&A may have found an ideal way of killing off all talk of Portrush as an Open venue this year with the European Tour taking the Irish Open there in late June. And should it emerge that the course has problems dealing with crowds of more than 15,000 per day, it may well prove to be the death knell to its Open hopes.
Finding accommodation is already proving to be a test for Irish Open fans. People interested in renting houses in the area are being asked to put in “a bid” as locals try to cash in on the event in a repeat the behaviour we saw before the 2006 Ryder Cup at The K Club.
One interested party told Irish Golf Desk: “We were quoted £2,000 for a house for the week and believed we had a booking. Then the owner called back and said the best bid was now £4,000 and wanted to know our offer.”
Current Open champion Darren Clarke lives next to the course and whatever about the infrastructure in the area, he believes the links is more than good enough to host the Open again, insisting: “The course is every bit as good as any of the Open venues. It’s good enough to be on the rota.”
Peter Dawson, the Chief executive of the R&A told Scotland on Sunday columnist John Huggan recently that they will be closely watching to see how Portrush copes with this year’s Irish Open before considering it for The Open.
He also rattled off a long list of things that might not be quite right with the venue before adding: “The biggest question, of course, is the commercial aspect of going to Ireland.”
With infrastructure and accommodation seen as the biggest stumbling blocks, Dawson said: “We will be very interested to see how the course copes commercially and in terms of spectator movement when the Irish Open is held there later this year. So we are taking it seriously.”
Ireland’s Joe Carr won the first of his three British Amateur titles at Royal Portrush in 1960 while England’s Iain Pyman came out on top in 1993 Amateur.
Strokeplay qualifying for the 2014 British Amateur will be held at nearby Portstewart while the 2015 Amateur Championship will be held at Carnoustie.
It will be Carnoustie’s fifth British Amateur and qualifying will also take place at Panmure, a previous Open Local Final Qualifying course.