THE successful return of The Open Championship to Royal Liverpool attracted more than 230,000 visitors and ended a 39-year wait for the peninsula to once again play host to the world’s finest golfers.
And now, eight years on, Wirral is once again set to take centre stage when the Ricoh Women’s British Open rolls into Hoylake for the first time in its history.
Wirral’s Council Leader, Cllr Phil Davies, is looking forward to welcoming players and spectators from around the globe and is convinced that they will find a borough that is confident in its ability to deliver a first-class sporting event as well as one excited by its own future.
Cllr Phil Davies said: “2006 was a hugely significant year for Wirral in terms of our ability to deliver on a global scale.
“We not only hosted the best attended Open held in England in a way that made a lot of people sit up and take notice but we also began working with Peel Holdings on their £4.5bn vision for Birkenhead Docks…Wirral Waters.
“The scale of that particular project is mind-boggling and it will take a huge amount of work to bring it to fruition but we are now at a point where work is being done to prepare the first site, the International Trade Centre, for construction.
“For me to attend Royal Liverpool this month and be able to talk confidently and positively about our regeneration and development plans is incredibly exciting.
“We’ve been over to China and India in recent months to assist with negotiations and the marketing of Wirral Waters but you cannot underestimate the impact that hosting a top class sporting event, one that has a huge Asian television audience, at one of the jewels in our crown, will make.
“It will raise our profile and put us on the map to potential investors in a way that we could never normally afford.”
Cllr Davies revealed that the council is pressing ahead with plans to investigate the feasibility of a new golf resort for the area.
“These large-scale events can also serve as a catalyst for investment in the area and we will be promoting our vision for an international golf resort while we have many of the world’s top golf writers on our patch,” he explained. “The improvement in our tourism offering post 2006 is marked and we believe the development of a world class golf resort in Hoylake is an idea that should at least be explored.
“Our businesses are regularly recognised at the regional tourism awards and tourism as a sector is worth almost £270m to our economy and has grown by 15% over the past five years.
“It is a major employer and although on a smaller scale to the men’s Open, the Ricoh Women’s British Open is still expected to bring with it a financial boost of more than £5m to Wirral.”
Cllr Davies believes the partnership between event owners – the Ladies Golf Union – and the promoters, IMG, is proving to be a fruitful one.
“We are pleased that IMG and the LGU are bringing the championship to Wirral for the first time,” he added.
“We believe it is another sign of confidence in us and we are determined to deliver, yet again, on a global scale.
“It’s too good an opportunity to miss.”