Open Golf Championship in Sandwich attended by 180,000 fans

Darren Clarke
Image caption Darren Clarke with the Claret Jug following his victory at Sandwich

The Open Golf Championship at the Royal St George's club in Sandwich has been declared a success by organisers.

More than 180,000 fans travelled to east Kent for the four-day event, which ended on Sunday with Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland as the winner.

Train operator Southeastern said more people than expected took advantage of the new high-speed service to Sandwich.

Tournament organiser Malcolm Booth said he hoped the event would return to Kent during the next 10 years.

The Open was last held in Sandwich in 2003, when Visit Kent recorded 182,585 spectators and £17.6m additional spending.

This year was the 14th time the championship has been played at Royal St George's.

'Testament to fans'

Southeastern said it carried about 37,000 passengers on both its high-speed and mainline routes into Sandwich in total, about 15% more than expected.

It said on the first day alone, about 5,500 passengers used the high-speed service from London.

Kent International Airport said it had experienced its busiest week for many years, handling 74 golf-related aircraft movements as part of the Open.

Open champion Clarke was one of the last to fly out from Manston on his way home to Portrush, via Belfast.

Mr Booth said he was "delighted that such big crowds" had come down to enjoy the golf, especially as there were unseasonal weather conditions over the weekend.

He said it was "testament to how much the people of England really love links golf and this championship", and added he was confident that within the next decade the R&A (Royal & Ancient Golf Club) would consider bringing the Open championship back to Sandwich.

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