In this morning’s R&A post‑championship press conference R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson agreed that Open Champion Darren Clarke is to the fore in promoting all that the game of golf stands for.
“As it became increasingly possible that Darren was going to win, I got the increasing feeling that this was a champion we really wanted to have, given his history in the game and everything he’s done for golf. We couldn’t be more delighted.”
Inevitably there were questions about a future Open Championship being played in Northern Ireland, probably at Portrush.
“I think we’re all very aware of the fact that three winners from Northern Ireland increases the interest level in this, and we have said we’ll take a closer look at Portrush,” said Peter Dawson. “What is needed is the mixture of a great course and plenty of infrastructure combined with a prospect of commercial success. No doubt about the golf course at Portrush, although there might be one or two things one would do, but the other two are what we have to look at.”
Despite the very bad weather on Saturday the total attendance has been put at approximately 180,000 which is close to that achieved in 2003. “So we’re very pleased, very pleased with the number indeed,” said Dawson.
Jim McArthur, Chairman of the R&A Championship Committee, thanked Royal St George’s Head Greenkeeper Graham Royden and his staff for doing ‘a fantastic job’. “I think you turned the course out in tremendous condition. We had one or two difficult weather conditions from time to time, but I think all in all it was a great week, and thanks very much indeed.”
Health of the game: ‘a mixed story’
Summing up the health of the game Peter Dawson described it as ‘a mixed story’.
“In countries where golf is a long‑established sport, like the United States and here, golf is having some difficulty, slight difficulty, in maintaining its market share of people’s leisure hours. I don’t think that’s particularly because golf is becoming less popular of itself, I just think it’s that people’s choices of what to do with their leisure time are much wider.
“In countries where golf is a relatively new game, it’s growing very fast. Eastern Europe, Asia, parts of South America are where the growth of the game currently is. And I think golf getting into the Olympics has actually accelerated that process, especially in Eastern Europe and the Far East.
“What golf has to do to keep its market share or gain it back in established countries is difficult to pinpoint. It’s a combination, isn’t it, of the time it takes, the cost of the game and so on. But essentially the game remains very popular, and when you get people like Rory, Darren and so on winning tournaments and the added interest that brings, that can only help.
“But it’s a matter of keeping going at the grass‑roots programmes there and also having the stars pulling from the top aspirationally, and it’s a very long process. But we clearly do need to do something about pace of play and cost as part of the mix, I’m sure.”
Open Championship www.opengolf.com