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2009 Ryder Cup - Scottish bid, youth strategy, funding
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Golf lessons for children aged nine 'a gimmick'

Nick Britten, Scotland Political Correspondent, The Telegraph, 27 October 2000

The Scottish Executive faced accusations of "governing by gimmick" yesterday after pledging to teach every child how to play golf by the age of nine.

At a time when ministers are caught up in a crisis over the future of the education system, new figures released yesterday showed homelessness at an all time high and hospital waiting lists are getting longer, the Executive is to spend £24 million teaching schoolchildren golf.

The initiative is part of Scotland's attempt to host the 2009 Ryder Cup, but left Rhona Brankin, the Sports Minister, facing intense criticism. It also poured more embarrassment on to the new Scottish Labour leader, Henry McLeish, whose first week in charge has been dogged by blunders and controversies.

Mike Russell, Scottish National Party education and sport spokesman, said: "I'm all for teaching kids golf, but this seems to me like a complete gimmick. I am sure people will be more worried about the state of the education system and yet another rise in the number of homeless.

"They want to see action on that, not these sorts of gimmicks. If this is the way Henry McLeish is going to run the country, then people will be depressed rather than excited." Miss Brankin said the Executive was keen to cement its worldwide reputation as the "home of golf" by encouraging young people to take up the sport.

She said: "Golf is immensely popular in Scotland and we can boast the best golf courses in the world. We want to give every child in this country the opportunity to play golf. Hosting the Ryder Cup in 2009 can help us to achieve that aim.

"We shall extend our existing commitment to golf and to widening opportunities and introduce every child in Scotland - boys and girls - to the game of golf by the age of nine. That is our 2009 Ryder Cup pledge."

The golfer Colin Montgomerie said he was "delighted" by the pledge. He said: "To give so many young people access to the sport, and to give them the chance to play golf by the age of nine, is the kind of commitment that few other nations can boast."

Brian Monteith, Scottish Tory education spokesman, questioned the timing of the announcement. He added: "Rhona Brankin's career will stay firmly in the bunker with cynical gesture politics such as this. "Such a daft scheme will not advance the cause of the Ryder Cup coming to Scotland and one has to ask why not teach music tuition to every Scottish pupil."

Ryder Cup: Scotland adopt a lofty approach

Lewine Mair, The Telegraph, 27 October 2000

Scotland's bid to hold the 2009 Ryder Cup yesterday reached fresh heights, with helicopters whisking interested parties around the five Scottish courses which would like to be considered as venues. The courses are Loch Lomond, Turnberry, Carnoustie, St Andrews and Gleneagles.

Though the Hon Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield asked to be on the list, they were not included. The club's all-male policy was reckoned to be at odds with an enterprise which will demand much in the way of public funding.

All four countries who are known to be bidding for the 2009 match - Scotland apart, they are England, Wales and Sweden - must have their applications lodged by next Tuesday. There will then be three months before the PGA and the European Tour announce the winner.

The Scottish Executive, who see themselves as favourites, added weight to their bid yesterday by announcing they had earmarked £24 million for the promotion of golf over the next decade. They also gave news of "a significant sum" secured from the private sector, led by the Bank of Scotland. Rhona Brankin, Scotland's Deputy Minister for Culture and Sport, raised a few eyebrows when she pledged to introduce every child under the age of nine to golf by 2009.

It sounded a tall order in a country where so many clubs are not noticeably interested in juniors under the age of 12. Yet the Ryder Cup would offer an excuse for everyone to drop more antiquated attitudes with regard to juniors and women in an effort to espouse a new-found common cause. In the opinion of Alastair Dempster, from SportScotland, the whole of Scotland could get behind a home-based Ryder Cup in the same way the Australians gave their all to the Olympics. Meanwhile, the economic impact of the match could translate into around £67 million for Scotland. That might be a conservative estimate, for the Irish are saying that the 2005 Ryder Cup could be worth £100 million to them in extra tourist income.

Though not too many hold out much hope for England's bid in that the English have already staged more than their share of Ryder Cup action, Wales and Sweden definitely have their supporters. Wales may lack Scotland's courses of Open championship calibre but they are still producing golfers as never before.

Only last year, the Welsh women's team won the Home Internationals for the first time since the matches began in 1909 while Phil Price recently joined Ian Woosnam as a Welsh golfer to have made a global impact in today's game. "A Ryder Cup in Wales would create more interest in golf and lead to more opportunities for youngsters," Price argued.

What could stop the Principality getting the nod on this occasion is that the scenario smacks a little of that relating to the Irish match. Just as there have been mutterings about Michael Smurfit, the owner of the K Club, "buying" the 2005 match, similar accusations would probably be directed at the dynamic Terry Matthews, the owner of Celtic Manor.

Morally, there are those who think Sweden deserve the Ryder Cup as much as anyone. The Swedes are certain to get marks for Barseback, the course earmarked for the match. It boasts plenty of variety, with some tree-lined holes and others bordering a wind-tossed sea.

They also have a new bridge from Copenhagen to Malmo enabling visitors flying into Copenhagen to reach Barseback in half an hour. There are also the Swedes themselves. The spectators are enthusiastic and seem a deal less dependent than most on kindly elements. The players are much the same, with the six Swedes in the recent rain-lashed Solheim Cup seeming well-nigh amphibious.

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