The impact of the Irish Open returning to Northern Ireland last week will reach far beyond the hosting of their "home" tournament. The event moved north of the border for the first time in 59 years, back to the Dunluce Links course at Royal Portrush made famous as the only track outside Scotland or England to host the British Open.
Max Faulkner hoisted the Claret Jug there in 1951, yet a Tiger Woods, or a Rory McIlroy, could emulate the Englishman as soon as 2018. Questions surrounded the small coastal town of Portrush, which sits across the Irish Sea from Troon, itself an eight-time host of the game's oldest major, and its capacity to cope with an event that regularly welcomes 30,000 spectators per day.
Doubts were raised that the infrastructure of a seaside resort with a population of 6,000 wasn't advanced enough; that transport links to Belfast, the capital, would prove insufficient. Yet Sandwich, home to the Open last year, has only 6,800 inhabitants and its transport problems are well documented.
Portrush passed its audition; almost 150,000 moved through its gates during the week, a figure nearly 10 per cent of Northern Ireland's population.
Ticket sales are a currency unlikely to be ignored by the Royal and Ancient, the body responsible for the British Open.
A return to Portrush in six year's time, with the Claret Jug on offer, will have Irish eyes smiling once again.
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