Reaction Weekend

The last time the Open came to Portrush golf was a very different game

BY Allan Massie   /  19 July 2019

Northern Ireland waited a long time to host the Open. It did so at Royal Portrush when George VI was king, Clement Attlee was prime minister and the Ulster Unionist Party ruled almost unchallenged at Stormont. Small boys who followed players round the course in 1951 are all either old age pensioners or dead. Of course, the Open would surely have returned to Northern Ireland before now if it hadn’t been for the Troubles. As it is, I would guess that there has been just a little anxiety among members of the R&A’s championship committee in case Brexit uncertainties stirred things up again. But so far all’s well and seems to be set fair.

There wasn’t much razzmatazz in 1951, no TV of course and little, if any global interest. The American amateur Frank Stranahan was probably the only dollar millionaire in the field; as an amateur he got a Mr in front of his name in the scorecard. None of the top American professionals took part, thinking it scarcely worth the expense and trouble of crossing the Atlantic. When Sam Snead won the first post-war Open at St Andrews in 1946, he complained that he was out of pocket, the championship prize not even covering his expenses.


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