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2009 Ryder Cup
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Scots return to grassroots as Ryder Cup D-day arrives

Mike Aitken, The Scotsman, 26 October 2000

Scotland's bid to secure the 2009 Ryder Cup, which will be launched today, goes far beyond the criteria set by the organising committee for staging the biennial match between Europe and the USA.

It will make a huge financial commitment to golf as well as delivering unprecedented backing for the development of the game.

Details of the Scottish plan will be officially announced at a press conference in Edinburgh this morning. Facing stiff competition from Wales, the northeast of England and Sweden, both the private and public sectors have come together in Scotland to produce the best possible case for holding the event at the home of golf.

Accused in some quarters of naiveté and given little chance of matching the largesse of the Welsh billionaire Terry Matthews, the owner of Celtic Manor, the Scots have not only dug deep into their pockets but also come up with a scheme for growing the game which money alone can’t buy.

Ireland recently paid the sum of £6.5 million to win the rights to the contest in 2005, but inflation and the ever-rising status of the match will boost the initial cost to around £10 million.

Understandably, Scotland is prepared to fund a multi-million pound investment in golf partly to stoke the feel-good factor for the nation of winning the rights to host such a celebrated international occasion.

Even more meaningful, of course, is the role golf can play in helping to revive Scotland’s ailing tourism industry. New revenue generated by the Ryder Cup will be counted in tens of millions.

For example, the last Ryder Cup held in Europe at Valderrama in 1997 is thought to have generated £52 million for the Andalucia region of Spain.

Already less of an elitist sport in Scotland than almost any other country in the world, the opportunity to participate in golf will be open to more young people throughout the land if the 2009 bid proves successful.

Cash would be made available to take the game into inner-city areas and give even the most disadvantaged children a chance to play.

While similar initiatives have previously taken place in the Midlands and were funded by the PGA from Ryder Cup profits, this is the first time that a pledge to improve the infrastructure of the game from the bottom up has been built in to any bid.

Apart from promoting inner city golf, it is also understood that there are significant plans in the pipeline to place golf alongside football as one of Scotland’s leading participant sports.

On top of the sport-for-all element, the best amateur golfers will also benefit when golf becomes one of the elite sports at the new Scottish Institute of Sport.

While equally supportive of the bids from Wales, Sweden and the North-east of England, there’s no doubt the PGA would relish the opportunity to work with the Scottish Executive in building a development programme for the game from the grassroots to the Ryder Cup.

That said, however worthy the Scottish bid turned out to be in terms of ideas and incentives, it wouldn’t get past first base unless substantial funding was available.

Thanks to the involvement of the Bank of Scotland, who announced their commitment as sponsors earlier this month, and the support of the Scottish Executive, Scotland’s Ryder Cup bid will invest millions in the game over the next nine years.

Even before he became the new Labour leader in Scotland and prospective First Minister, Henry McLeish promised he would do whatever it takes to bring the Ryder Cup home to Scotland. Today’s official launch will back those words with deeds.

Although the only function of Scotland’s Ryder Cup bid is to win the match for the nation, mention will be made in the document of the five courses which have worked closely together during the past year to promote the campaign.

Gleneagles, Loch Lomond, Turnberry, St Andrews and Carnoustie are the leading contenders to provide the venue for the match. However, the decision on which course will be chosen for 2009 is up to Europe’s Ryder Cup committee not the Scottish organisers.

This means that Muirfield, which expressed a late note of interest, is entitled to state its case for hosting the match even if the club’s men-only membership policy would make it impossible for the Scottish Executive to support.

Indeed, should Scotland be selected for 2009 at the start of next year, there’s nothing to prevent any course putting forward a bid before the successful venue is declared during the 2001 match at the Belfry.

Common sense, though, suggests the famous five are the front-runners.

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