Clarke backs push for big tournaments at Royal Portrush

A bid to bring a professional golf tournament back to Northern Ireland following the region's stunning success in the world game has been backed with a financial commitment from the Stormont government.

The power-sharing executive in Belfast has pledged to provide funding to help Royal Portrush Golf Club secure an event. It is envisaged that the famous links course could now stage the Irish Open within two years – a move that could pave the way for the Open Championship itself returning to Northern Ireland for only the second time in its history.

With three golfers from Northern Ireland – Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke – winning majors in the space of 13 months, the timing appears to be perfect. Clarke was delighted with the news. "This announcement today is a great achievement for Royal Portrush Golf Club," he said.

"The enthusiasm and support I have received since returning home has been overwhelming and I am keen to ensure golf remains in the foreground of everyone's minds. To secure a major tournament in my home town would be a fantastic result."

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