I’m told I can claim as close a connection with the British Open as most punters, even if it was in 1951 at Royal Portrush and I was 2 years old. In those innocent days spectators could sidle right up to the tee. Just as somebody was about to drive off, I’m told I piped up: ”What’s that man doing Daddy?” and got no more than a dirty look. I hate to think what would happen today.
Like anybody with half a heart I’ve enjoyed the world wide speculation that the time should soon be ripe for us to host the British Open once again. But the reality that follows euphoria is always a bit of skunner.The problem doesn’t lie with the courses and certainly not with the local talent but with our feeble infrastructure.
Darren himself puts his finger on it very politely. The Slieve Donard in Newcastle and the Ramada in Portrush hardly make the hospitality cut for 180,000 people, including a few score pampered multimillionaires who need more than a tour round Barry’s to keep them happy while they wait for the rainstorm to die down.
Ed Curran may have the right idea, to try for the Irish Open first and only then I guess only after a couple of decades of investment growth. Resist the familiar temptation to walk before we can run. Develop as many specialist golfing holidays and pro-celebrity Clinton events as we can. But at my age (and maybe yours), my chances of heckling an Open player on the Antrim coast again look pretty slim.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London