Sun shines as golfers return to fairways

Warm welcome for return of golf on the north coast as lockdown restrictions eased

Sun shines as golfers return to fairways

Ready to hit off after two months lockdown are Alastair Chambers and Thomas Peters on the first tee at the Dunluce Course.WK22KC15SP

By Damian Mullan

Reporter:

By Damian Mullan

Email:

sport@thechronicle.uk.com

THE new manager of Royal Portrush Golf Club has welcomed the return of the sport, one of the first to be permitted in a partial easing of lockdown restrictions by the NI Executive.

John Lawler, who took over from secretary/manager Wilma Erskine in October, says his priority remains providing a safe environment for members.

However, he acknowledged that a lot of work needed to be done to attract overseas visitors again following the coronavirus pandemic.

“With the lead-up to The Open Championship, there was increased interest from visitors around the world to come and play the Dunluce Links and to explore this stunning part of the world,” said John, former general manager at The Island Golf Club in Dublin.

“We were effectively fully booked for 2020 before the lockdown was introduced and the effect has been significant on bookings for 2020.

“But we have worked closely with tour operators to reschedule their bookings into 2021 and 2022.

“The reasons to visit are still here – the world class golf, the stunning scenery and the genuine welcome - and I hope that the travel infrastructure returns quickly when it is safe to do so to allow those wishing to visit to get here easily,” he added.

In the meantime, members are enjoying their return to the fairways, albeit with a number of restrictions in place, following several months of inactivity.

“It’s very exciting to be back - it’s been a long period of closure,” continued the 42-year-old Dubliner.

“Members have been champing at the bit to get out and staff have been looking forward to welcoming people back.

“We know how fortunate we are and we recognise that with that comes a responsibility to follow all the protocols correctly.

“But, for now, the focus is on providing a safe envvironment for members to play golf and for our staff to work in,” he added.

It's a similar story around the coast at Portstewart Golf Club where captain David Ferguson admitted to having ‘mixed emotions’ about a return to play.

“Obviously, it feels great to be back out on the golf course the first morning after lockdown,” he said.

“However, I can’t help but feel for other sports men women and the general wider world.

“Coming out here on January 1 there is an expectation that your life will continue as normal, that we would play golf, enjoy social events and keep friendships together and that that would spread into the wider community.

“That hasn’t happened, obviously, and while we’re happy to be out on the course there are more serious implications for the world at large.

“Our wish is that things continue on this path to be able to play sport, to be able to get back to work and to enjoy normal life as quickly as possible.

“We think of all those families who have been severely affected by the Covid-19.

“We are pleased to be back but mindful as well of the outside community,” he added.

* See our print edition for an interview with new Royal Portrush Golf Club manager John Lawler.

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