Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Peter Robinson, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness and Tourism Minister Arlene Foster were among a number of leading politicians from Stormont and Westminster attending the Irish Open at Royal Portrush Golf Club.
The high ranking officials were special guests of The European Tour and host club Royal Portrush during the opening round of the first Irish Open in Northern Ireland for almost 60 years, which drew a massive crowd to the scenic Antrim Coast venue.
Despite a day of unsettled weather – bright sunshine mixed with heavy rain and a brief suspension for a lightening threat – the first round of the tournament was enjoyed by the spectators and the political delegation who spent several hours on the site.
The First Minister and Deputy First Minister were welcomed to Royal Portrush by European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady, Chairman of the host club’s Championship Committee, John Bamber and Club Captain John Moss.
They were joined, close to the 18th green as they watched some of the world’s best golfers passing through, by Howard Hastings, Chairman of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.
The Ministerial delegation toured the bustling Tented Village at Royal Portrush, stopping at many of the individual units, before visiting the Practice Range and spending some time with local Portrush resident and reigning Open Champion Darren Clarke, who has put heart and soul into ensuring the return to Northern Ireland is a huge success.
Also in attendance was Owen Paterson MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at Westminster, who also toured the facility and spent some time with his political colleagues from Stormont.
Minister Foster, who has been prominent in the Irish Open’s return to Royal Portrush, was one of the early visitors to the course, watching Portrush native, Graeme McDowell, teeing off in the company of Padraig Harrington and defending champion Simon Dyson.
The Minister also congratulated Alan Dunbar from Portrush, who last week won the Amateur Championship at Royal Troon to earn an invitation to mix it with the professionals in his home town.