Speaker for 6th February 2018
Coleraine Probus and the Irish Open
An excellent summary from Graham's Minuets…
Michael opened his talk with a brief history of Portstewart Golf Club. Golf was played on the Old Course from 1889 with the Golf Club being formed in 1894. In 1908 the club moved to its present site. He outlined the development of the course over the years under the supervision of Course Manager Bernard Finlay. Today it is the only 54-hole course in Ireland and continues to be a good test of golf. The 2017 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, hosted by The Rory Charitable Foundation, was an immense undertaking for the Portstewart Club. There was disruption while the course was being prepared, the immense tented village erected and practice tee constructed. The competitors, 600 volunteer marshals, 156 caddies, extra green keepers and the paying public all had to be catered for on site. 142 Club Members totally committed 5 days to the successful running of the event including the Pro Am Tournament. Translink with their shuttle bus and park and ride transport provided a faultless service which provided a much needed link with the town. The event was transmitted to 400 million homes world wide, a marketing dream for Tourism in Northern Ireland.
Part 2 - A longer winded version of the same thing!
Coleraine Probus had a look behind the scenes of last year's Irish Open, when Michael Moss from Portstewart Golf Club came along to talk to the members. Michael started his talk and setting the scene, by giving members a 'potted' history of the Club and also the Open - and haven't things changed over the years!
The beginnings of the Golf Club are back in 1889 with an informal group of golfers that went on to found the club in 1894. The club moved to its present site in 1902, although his was a lot smaller than it is today. Michael started working at the club in 1974. A few years later, in 1981, Philip McIntire brought the rights to the Dunes and Beach (this was later passed to the National Trust), for a bargain price of £17,500. In 1984 the club employed a Course Manager to develop the links much as they are today. The final piece in the jigsaw came in 1994 then the land for the 'Riverside Course' was purchased. This made the Portstewart club unique in Ireland, having three, full size, 18 hole courses in one club.
The Club House in 1907
The first 'Irish Open' was held near Dublin at the Portmarnock Golf Club in 1927. It was played from Wednesday 16th to Friday 18th of August - as the players were almost all 'Club Professionals', they needed to be back at their clubs for the busy weekend period! The first two days of the event, all the competitors played 18 holes. The top 60 went on to the final day playing 36 holes. The winner, taking 'only' 312 shots over the three days was George Duncan and took the Championship Gold Medal and the first prize of £150.
Teeing-off 1955 style
Things have changed in the life of the Irish Open beyond all belief. It is now a fully-fledged International event offering prize money in 2017 of over £7m, with world-wide sponsors and TV broadcasts being beamed around the world. So how did Portstewart get to play host to this major golfing event?
In August 2016, Michael Moss was surprised by a phone call asking if he thought the next 'Open' could be played at Portstewart. Needless to say it was a big honour and would be great for the club, but with only 11 months to plan the event, this was no small task. The club had plenty of room for the event, and enough time to modify any of the tees or holes that may be required, but the shear numbers of people and the requirements for 'The Golf Village' with it's massive commercial and VIP needs (to say nothing of the TV coverage) was far more challenging.
Michael Moss at the 2017 Irish Open
For Michael the first imperative was the recruitment of the Marshals - 600 would be required and they were needed every one of the five days of the tournament, and this was a big commitment for anyone. Michael then explained some extra facts and figures, which illustrated just what a huge event the club had taken on. For the first time, the 2017 'Open' would be part of the 'Rolex' series of tournaments - giving more international status and more pressure. The 'Village' was going to be the largest ever assembled, and the 'Commercial Day' was to be the biggest ever.
Each day of the event was planed around a 'start time' around 3am with late nights at the end of the day. Catering for both players, caddies and the hundreds of extra staff had to be high quality and available from the early breakfast to the late night lunch.
Accommodation for the 'Stars' was fairly easily sorted - the Galgorm was booked for those that didn't have their own arrangements - transport was provided by a fleet of white BMWs thanks to sponsorship!. The caddies and the massive site crew all had to have local accommodation arranged. This was a big boost to the local economy.
Michael at our club meeting, and we're listening carefully!
The event was a massive success and the press/TV coverage of the five days put a splendid spotlight on our beautiful area. There was an immediate, and continuing, increase in the number of club bookings from people who having watched the TV coverage, now want to visit the area and play on the wonderful Portstewart courses.
For more information about the Portstewart Golf Club's history, 'Click' on the logo below (this will open in a new window)