What's in the water in Northern Ireland?


What is in the water in Northern Ireland?

I tweeted that on Sunday as I watched Darren Clarke hold on to his lead to win the Open Championship at Royal St. Georges and become the third Ulsterman to win one of the last six majors, following the success of Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy in the U.S. Open.

The Twitterverse was solidified in their response. It’s not the water, it’s the Guinness.

A pint of “nice Irish black stuff” and Irishmen are a combo as closely linked (if not more so) as the English with fish and chips.  It’s a stereotype each of their recent major champions recognizes and has embraced and perpetuated in their post-victory speeches, press conferences, and interviews. And the drunkard remarks are received with cheers by those around the world who like to share in the Irish tradition that packs the pubs every March on St. Patrick’s Day.

But think if it were an American, or an Englishman, South African or Australian for that matter at the winner’s podium making the same references to “getting pissed,” “not being sober,” and “being hungover” as Clarke did. It likely wouldn’t go over as smoothly as that cold Guinness poured from the tap in Ireland.

But we give them a break. We understand the happy-go-lucky lifestyle of the Irish. We like it. We want to imitate it and embrace it as well. “Kiss me I’m Irish,” as slogan goes!

Tourism Ireland has tuned into the recent worldwide popularity due to the Irish explosion in grand slam events through the warm reception their champions are greeted to around the world, especially in the United States.

On Tuesday of Open Championship week, before Clarke’s victory, IrishCentral.com published an article detailing how Tourism Ireland plans to capitalize on the recent successes of their native sons on the world golf stage by launching a $3.1 million advertising campaign to increase travel to Ireland for golf vacationers.

According to the article “34,000 news articles popped up in 100 countries during the nine days after the U.S. Open.” And of those, data from O’Leary Analytics showed 18,000 were in the U.S. alone.

Chief Executive of Tourism Ireland Niall Gibbons said in the article that they were “working hard to drive home the message that a golfing holiday in Ireland is about much more than a round of 18 holes – the combination of Ireland’s world-class golf product and our unique brand of hospitality plays a key role in attracting golfers to come here.”

In addition to running ad campaigns in the British media as well as in well known golf publications in the U.S., Tourism Ireland will also focus efforts at the Solheim Cup in September at Killeen Castle and in Germany and Sweden.

But the golf world has already taken notice.

Not only have other professional golfers like world No. 1 Luke Donald, who tweeted, “thinking about moving to Northern Ireland,” joked about changing their residences, but the Royal & Ancient’s chief Peter Dawson has said they will seriously discuss the possibility of conducting a British Open in Ulster. Northern Ireland’s Royal Portrush – in 1951 - hosted the only Open Championship held outside Scotland and England.

And with half of the last six major titles owned by a country with a population less than West Virginia, they definitely have something figured out.

Maybe we should all raise a glass of Guinness to the Irish and hope our golf takes a cue, too. That luck certainly has been rubbing off.