The 148th Open Championship in Portrush has taken on extra special meaning this year due to its location.
It is the first Open to be staged in Northern Ireland since 1951 which is in large part due to the ‘The Troubles’ and the legacy that has been left behind and still lingers on in various parts of the British state.
Despite all the ceasefires and agreements, Northern Ireland remains a fractious part of the world. The devolved Assembly at Stormont collapsed in January 2017 with various in-house fighting yet to be resolved while the looming threat of Brexit threatens to pull the North back into the dark days that most had hoped were a thing of the past.
July is also a very fractious time of the year in the state due to the Twelfth celebrations which largely divides the two communities. It would seem that the only thing both sides can agree on is their golf and the decision to bring one of golf’s flagship tournaments back to one of the game’s greatest courses at Royal Portrush Golf Course.
Writing in his column for Golf Week, Eamon Lynch has penned a beautiful article which goes into depth around the significance of this week’s event.
In the article, Lynch informs us that Brooks Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliott, warned Rickie Fowler long ago about wearing his trademark orange on the final day of this year’s Open Championship.
“But the 148th Open isn’t like the 147 that preceded it of course. If we were at St. Andrews, folks wouldn’t fret about language or symbolism that might cause offense. If we were at Muirfield, TV analysts wouldn’t hesitate to say the course is at the mercy of bombers. If we were at Birkdale, Rickie Fowler would have packed his iconic head-to-toe orange outfit. That’s a politically potent color in these parts. Ricky Elliott, caddie to Brooks Koepka and a Portrush native, gave Fowler a heads up on that long ago.
“And if Fowler did wear it? He’d be gently laughed at by people who might assault their neighbors for wearing the same. We fight amongst ourselves. The rest of you are entertainment.”
— PUMA GOLF (@PUMAGolf) July 17, 2019
Much like Tiger Woods who wears red on the final day of tournaments, Fowler is known for dressing in orange which is a tribute to his Alma Mater, Oklahoma State University.
However, as most well know, the colour orange (especially in July) takes on another meaning in Northern Ireland. It is a strong symbol of unionism. It is highly unlikely that any issue would have been made had Fowler decided to stick with tradition but when it comes to Northern Ireland you just don’t know.
Fowler’s clothing supplier, Puma, released an image this weekend depicting what the American will wear at the Open this week and in a dramatic twist of fate, it would seem that Fowler is set to wear green on Sunday, a colour that strongly symbolises nationalism.
Talk about ironic…