Ulster Unionist Mike Nesbitt is highlighting the untold millions Rory McIlory has generated for the Northern Ireland economy with his weekend win at the Shanghai Masters Golf in China.
The Strangford MLA said: "We have an immediate focus on the £1.25 million cheque he won for himself, but China is rapidly on its way to becoming the world's biggest economy, and that means rich golfers looking fror new experiences. Many will now want to play the courses where Rory learnt his trade.
"I had the pleasure of discussing this issue with the Chinese Consul General in Edinburgh last week, and it is clear Chinese golfers will have to look abroad to further their sport. The Chinese government largely views new golf courses as a waste of valuable agricultural land, as well as looking nagatively as the amount of water that is required to upkeep the country's existing network of courses, which number but a few hundred.
"Rory's success opens up huge possibilities on two fronts. The Chinese market is wide open for the Northern Ireland Tourist Board to target Chinese business people willing to help with the key tourism targets of achieving more overnight stays and a higher daily spend. The other is to explore how our new Greenkeeping and Golf Academy at CAFRE’s Greenmount Campus, Antrim, night help China better manage their own golf courses, particularly in the efficient use of water.
"With the Chinese Counsel based in Edinburgh, Scotland has an advantage geographically, but with Rory McIlroy leading the charge of the Northern Ireland Champions, Rory's weekend win opens an unique opportunity for a windfall bonus for the local economy."