Open organisers sidestep controversy over flute band event

The Open’s organisers moved to sidestep potential controversy over a flute band event coinciding with the tournament by insisting they are mindful of being guests.

Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of the R&A, was asked on Wednesday whether he was uneasy about a Protestant marching band concert being held in the seaside town on Saturday evening.

The Open is coming to Northern Ireland in the middle of the loyal order parading season, and the Portrush Sons of Ulster flute band hold an event in Portrush every July.

This year, due to the logistical challenges presented by the Open, the band cancelled the traditional parade through the town and is staging a static outdoor concert instead, promoting it as a cultural showcase.

Mr Slumbers stressed that the Open was a guest among the local community.

“We are very conscious that The Open comes to town once every X years,” he said.

“We are very conscious that we are guests here. We’re guests every year at the place we go.

“As guests we are very conscious that we want to be part of the community. We are very clear that we want to spend money in the community. We want to help with legacy funds in the community. But we will be gone in a couple of weeks. And so we want to live with the community.”

He added: “There’s always things going on around the golf. And that’s wonderful. And the community carries on. Our job is to put on the Open Championship and to respect the fact that we are guests.”

Portrush home-grown golf star Graeme McDowell also tried not be to drawn into the realm of politics when asked about the musical event on the final practice day.

“I certainly don’t really want to start getting into politics and religion and that kind of stuff,” he said.

“I’m not intelligent and educated enough in the real intricacies of why and how we still do this stuff.

“People like to celebrate. As long as it’s all respectfully done, we’ll listen to people. It’s a free country, right?

“I don’t really want to get into that stuff. It’s a very difficult conversation, and Northern Ireland is a very unique place. So, listen, I hope everyone has fun and has a good time.”

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