Ulster Unionist Economy spokesperson, Mike Nesbitt, has welcomed yet another boost for local tourism with Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell's third place finish at the World Cup of golf in China. With 10 million Chinese taking holidays outside of China every year, the Strangford MLA says the focus the two "Macs" have brought to golf in Northern Ireland will yield considerable dividends.
"It is not something you can easily measure, but the fact they were favourites for the World Cup, lead going into the final day, and achieved a podium finish, further enhances Northern Ireland's reputation as the new home of golf. Can you imagine Northern Ireland finishing in the top three at a football World Cup? Or what about rugby? We all had high hopes for the Ireland team at this year's Rugby World Cup, but they unfortunately came up short. Golf is a truly global game, and for our two boys to be so highly rated, and then perform so well, is fantastic!
"China is relatively under-developed in terms of golf courses, and a recent briefing from the Chinese Consul in Edinburgh confirmed that it unlikely to change, as they need all the land they have for agriculture. So, those newly rich Chinese who want to explore a passion for golf need to travel, and while the USA and Scotland are the obvious destinations, the continuing efforts of Rory and Graeme are fast making Northern Ireland a third destination of choice.
"I was at the Darren Clarke Golf School at CAFRE's Greenmount Campus over the weekend, discussing this very potential. Greenmount can offer short course golf training, and also greenkeeping skills, another major issue for China, where they are deeply concerned about the amount of water required to maintain a golf course.
"I look forward to helping connect the Darren Clarke School with the relevant Chinese authorities, and thank our World Cup heros for their efforts this weekend."