DOOR OPENS FOR PORTSTEWART?

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Speculation is mounting that Portstewart Golf Club could step in to host the Irish Open Golf Championships next year.

The prestigious event was due to take place at Fermanagh’s Lough Erne Resort, but news broke last week that the course, designed by Nick Faldo, could miss out on staging the championships.

Speaking on Thursday, European Tour official, Antonia Beggs, insisted that “no definitive decision either way” had been taken on a venue for 2017.

Ms Beggs, who was announcing plans for this year’s Irish Open at the K Club in Kildare added: “There are lots of discussions going on behind the scenes and I can’t confirm either way because that is a strategic decision.”

The Times understands that European Tour officials have already visited Portstewart to check about its suitability to stage the Irish Open at some date in the future.

Last year, the local course hosted the Ladies’ British Amateur Open and one of the two stroke play qualifying rounds, alongside Royal Portrush, for last year’s British Amateur Championship.

Speaking to irishgolfdesk.com in October, Portstewart Golf Club’s Secretary Manager, Michael Moss confirmed: “We’d like to do it. Royal Portrush hosted in 2012 — a links course.

“Royal County Down hosted in 2015 — another links course.

“The European Tour likes the profile of the links course for the Irish Open, and getting it back to where it should be.

“So if the Irish Open is going to be held on a links in Northern Ireland again, well, the obvious next choice is Portstewart. We could host the Irish Open tomorrow. The course is ready.”