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Golf News - Ryder Cup
2009 Ryder Cup - Scottish bid, Youth strategy, Other bids
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Scotland holds Ryder aces

With superb facilities, Scotland should be favourite to stage the 2009 Ryder Cup

Alasdair Reid, The Sunday Times, 29 October 2000

A high pass over Carnoustie, a quick blast south towards St Andrews, west for lunch at Gleneagles and then a figure-of-eight above Loch Lomond,followed by a trip down the Clyde coast for afternoon tea at Turnberry. From a helicopter 600 feet in the air, the menace of Carnoustie, the aching loveliness of Loch Lomond and the plump fruitfulness of Gleneagles becomes glaringly obvious.

There is worthiness, too, in the teaching centre operated by the Scottish Golf Union at Drumoig, near St Andrews, and in Colin Montgomerie's new Golf Links Academy at Turnberry. Scotland's claim to host the 2009 Ryder Cup is based on resources that would leave every other contender green with envy.

Then again, it would have been tricky to deny that premise beforehand. Three of the five courses have hosted Open Championships - Carnoustie and St Andrews the 1999 and 2000 events respectively - another was recently an acclaimed venue for the Solheim Cup, while Gleneagles has consistently been one of the most popular and accommodating stops on the European Tour. Only this month, Golf World magazine counted all five among the top 15 courses in the British Isles.

Neither Slaley Hall in Northumberland nor Celtic Manor near Newport, the venues for the English and Welsh bids respectively, figure in the list of the top 100 courses.

Their omissions suggest that Scotland's attempt to secure the tournament will produce victory by a margin that even Tiger Woods might find staggering, but the fact there is a contest at all is revealing. The Ryder Cup now finds itself at the centre of the kind of bidding war more commonly associated with the Olympics or football's World Cup.

Which is not to say it is for sale to the highest bidder. The Professional Golfers Association (PGA), the rights-holding authority when the Ryder Cup is staged in Europe, has set a fixed price for the tournament which the successful bidder must pay them to acquire the event.

Officially, the figure is confidential, but a sum just a short putt off £10m would not be wide of the mark.

Suggestions that the process is a cloak-and-dagger auction are deflected by the openness of Sandy Jones, the PGA chief executive. "It is not a cheque-book Ryder Cup," said Jones.

"We have set the financial target to each bidder exactly the same. The Ryder Cup is vastly different from its early days because there is a commercial element to it now. Clearly, both the PGA and the European Tour have significant businesses to run and the Ryder Cup is a very legitimate source of income.

"The winning contender will write a cheque to the Ryder Cup on an annual basis from the awarding of the matches until after the event has taken place," said Jones.

"An element of that will be used to subsidise and support activity within the relevant area to the benefit of the game and the promotion of the match."

He is clearly aware of the dangers of the bidding system and feels that the fixed-price element reduces the problem: "It's not the cheque that wins it. It's the strength and the quality of their commitment to using the game, developing the game, helping the community.

"Obviously, there is a financial element to that, but we believe that element is to the benefit of the community, not to the benefit of the PGA. It will make no difference to us financially."

There, then, lies the rub. For if the accusation that the Ryder Cup simply goes to the contender with the deepest pockets is wrong, it would still be remiss to ignore the fact that pocket depth is a factor.

Scotland's bid was launched on Thursday morning amidst a flurry of worthy proclamations from Sam Galbraith and Rhona Brankin, the Scottish Executive ministers, about developing the sport. Their proposals were underpinned by a commitment to spend £24m over the next decade.

In Wales, meanwhile, Terry Matthews, the Welsh-born, Canadian-based billionaire owner of the Celtic Manor, was warming up for another raid on his cheque book in what has become a personal mission to secure the event for his homeland.

And while the strength of Scotland's bid rests unequivocally on the quality of its golf resources, the precedents of the 1997 and 2005 tournaments, hosted respectively by Valderrama and Ireland's K Club, provides Matthews with ample encouragement.

The choice of both venues was, to put it tastefully, helped by the fortunes available to their owners, both of whom have been generous patrons of the European Tour.

Tuesday is the closing date for submissions to the PGA's Ryder Cup committee. With the Welsh and Scots considered to be front-runners, it is probably in Scotland's favour that the PGA, which alternates the casting vote on venue selection with the European Tour, is leading the process this year.

Clouding the issue, however, is the fact that Slaley Hall is owned by the De Vere group, effectively the PGA's landlords at the Belfry, while little is known about the bid being made by Sweden.

But perhaps the bigger cloud is simply the fact that the process is taking place at all. The Open Championship works on a straightforward rota basis, but the Ryder Cup is moving into territory where suspicions over venue selection are bound to arise.

Those suspicions may be unjustified this year, but whether that will always be the case is open to serious doubt.

Hastings drives Scots’ bid

Martin Hannan, Scotland on Sunday, 29 October 2000

At first sight, Gavin Hastings seems an unlikely revolutionary. A former pupil of George Watson’s College and a Cambridge University blue, Hastings led Scotland and the British Lions to victory on the rugby field.

Now director of a successful marketing firm, in many respects he is the Scottish sports establishment personified. Yet behind the scenes of the other sport he has played all his life, golf, Hastings has achieved something that is truly revolutionary - he has got everyone involved in a Scottish sporting venture following the same script.

Scotland United is, for once, a reality. Quietly, effectively, and in a few short months, Hastings and his co-workers in the effort to bring the Ryder Cup to Scotland in 2009 have produced a coherent and comprehensive bid, which more than meets the criteria set by the Professional Golfers’ Association.

The Scottish Executive, Scottish Tourist Board, Scottish Enterprise, five top courses and the Bank of Scotland have worked harmoniously on the Ryder Cup Scotland Committee, and nary a peep of disagreement has emerged. For anyone au fait with the normal procedures in Scottish sport and politics, such co-operative effort is unprecedented.

A lot of this teamwork is down to Hastings’ enthusiasm and positive approach: "I am confident we will win. I cannot allow myself to think any other way."

Hastings has pulled in some hefty backing from major players such as Lord McFarlane, life president of United Distillers, whose commitment to Scottish sport is such that last season he visited every stadium in the Scottish Football League representing the sponsors, Bell’s whisky.

At Gleneagles Hotel last week during an expensive and impressive promotional day for the bid that featured journalists being flown by helicopter over the courses, Lord McFarlane revealed the personal approach that Hastings has brought to his task: "When you have got an ambassador for Scotland like Gavin, and he calls you up and says it would be very nice if Bell’s were to sponsor the (promotional) day, then that’s what happens. Of course it does."

Encouraged by the Scottish Executive, Hastings and his team have prepared an even more intensive plan - using the Ryder Cup as a catalyst for further development of golf in Scotland and to increase the nation’s share of the booming world marketplace.

The bid’s components include: £24m investment in golf from the public sector and at least the same again from the private sector before 2009; every child in Scotland to be introduced to golf before the age of nine - by 2009 that would mean 450,000 youngsters trying the game; £4.4m investment by Scottish Enterprise in branding golf as a major Scottish business; £500,000 a year and rising to be spent on golf tourism by the Scottish Tourist Board; at least £4m to be spent on golf by sportscotland, the former sports council.

This is on top of the £100m invested in golfing facilities in Scotland in the past 10 years, of which £25m is accounted for by projects backed by the National Lottery.

There is evidence that some of the antediluvian attitudes of club committees are beginning to be swept away as part of the national renewal effort - clubs which previously made visitors as welcome as molehills on the 18th green are now gladly opening their doors. New courses - there are still not enough to meet demand - and the National Golf Centre at Drumoig, plus state-of-the art facilities such as the Colin Montgomerie Links Academy at Turnberry have been part of a general modernisation of golf in Scotland in recent years, a process that will now continue at a greater pace thanks to the Ryder Cup bid.

Hastings explained: "What we want to do is to re-establish the position of Scotland as the home of golf and also as a leading destination for golfers from around the world. We’re known as the home of golf, but in today’s international market it is important to keep re-emphasising that fact and back it up with real investment."

The Ryder Cup has already proved beneficial: "Preparing the bid has been a real team-building exercise. It has needed this coming together of everyone for us to be focused and united on behalf of Scotland and Scottish golf. Honestly, it has been a pleasure to help galvanise the genuine support that has been forthcoming from both the private and public sectors."

Hastings and his team have steadfastly refused to criticise the opposing bids by the north-east region of England using the Slaley Hall course in Northumberland, the Swedish national bid and the Welsh national bid using the Wentwood Hills course at the Celtic Manor resort.

The Welsh Assembly back Celtic Manor - the main opposition to Scotland - which is underpinned by Terry Matthews, the resort’s developer, who has indicated that he will spend a small fortune to bring the Ryder Cup to Wales. As possessor of a fortune in excess of £1bn, he can afford it.

Matthews and the rest, however, are up against a very determined team led by a skipper who proved himself with towering achievements in the toughest of arenas such as the Parc des Princes. He said: "It was an honour to captain Scotland at rugby, but in a business context to be involved in bringing a successful Ryder Cup bid to Scotland would match anything I’ve done on the field of play."

If he and his co-workers can bring in the Ryder Cup, Scottish golf and Scotland generally will owe Gavin Hastings a bigger debt than even Scottish rugby.

Wales and Scotland set for Ryder shoot-out

A billionaire takes on the home of golf as the bidding to stage one of Europe's premier team events in 2009 gets serious

Derek Lawrenson, Sunday Telegraph, 29 October 2000

On Tuesday four hefty tomes will arrive at the headquarters of the Professional Golfers' Association at The Belfry detailing the bids of the countries hoping to host the 2009 Ryder Cup.

Naturally, the Ryder Cup committee will have to be polite and peruse each one in microscopic detail, but two really should be consigned swiftly to the "thanks, but no thanks" drawer.

One comes from England, which has hosted every Ryder Cup on this side of the Atlantic bar one since 1973. It would be outrageous were it to receive another. Equally Sweden cannot surely be considered seriously at this stage. One day, of course, but there are several countries, and two in particular, with far greater claims. Which brings us to the two most deserving bids, from Wales and Scotland. Both are impressive enough to leave the committee with the most unenviable of selection dilemmas.

What a long way we have travelled since the days 20 years ago when virtually the only club in the land who put up their hand to host the event was a course in the Midlands that had only recently been converted from a potato field. Now there is not a politician in either Scotland or Wales who dare be seen doing anything but enthusiastically endorsing their bid. Another day, another press release with the red dragon logo detailing some new development; in Scotland, meanwhile, they organise helicopter tours for journalists to courses all self-respecting golf writers should know backwards anyway.

Scotland are the favourites and on the surface appear to have an unanswerable claim. Just once has the Ryder Cup been held in the country that gave the sport to the world, which is plainly wrong. A smidgen of this has been Scotland's fault. While Spain mobilised its forces to earn the 1997 contest, Scotland offered little; next it was The Belfry to step forward and commercially twist the arm of the PGA; then Ireland, which has stolen a lot of Scotland's thunder in recent years.

Finally, however, the Scots have been galvanised. The formidable quartet of Turnberry, Gleneagles, Carnoustie and St Andrews have put themselves forward as potential hosts, together with Loch Lomond; the Royal Bank of Scotland have come on board as a sponsor; the politicians are all saying the right words, as are players such as Colin Montgomerie and Paul Lawrie. "It is one thing to win the Open in Scotland but it would be even better to win the Ryder Cup," says Lawrie, which is one heck of a soundbite.

How can Wales compete with this mighty artillery? Their bid is centred on but one course, Celtic Manor, which is lagging so far behind the aforementioned five in terms of greatness as to make any comparison laughable.

It is owned, however, by the billionaire Terry Matthews. By 2009 Celtic Manor will be the biggest resort in Britain, with 800 bedrooms and, subject to planning approval, no fewer than five courses. With the will and the money, both of which Matthews possesses in abundance, a composite layout that appeases most detractors is entirely feasible.

Matthews is also aware of the bottom line in Ryder Cup matters. The PGA Cup was held at Celtic Manor last September. Over the next five years he will give £10 million to the European Tour to develop the Wales Open into one of the best events in these isles.

There would be nothing pursuasive in the Welsh bid, however, to the objective golf observer if all it amounted to was one man flashing his wallet.

Here is the alluring bit. Wales is subject to Objective One funding, where every pound raised from market forces will be matched by one from the European Union. Imagine how much money there would be to develop golf if they got the Ryder Cup.

One man who has is Tony Lewis, who is spearheading the Welsh bid. In all his cricketing days, Lewis has never known such enthusiasm as he is seeing now. "This is even bigger than Rugby World Cup," he says. "It is like a mist is being lifted from golf in Wales. Every day we are innundated with calls from people wanting to help, everyone from politicians to golfers like Phillip Price to the Manic Street Preachers.

"Did you know that more people over 15 play golf in Wales than rugby? But where can they go? The game is a best-kept secret. But if we got the Ryder Cup we would have the money to put public courses, pay-as-you-play courses, par-three and pitch-and-putt courses, and nests of putting greens around every corner.

"It is impossible for me to knock Scotland's bid. Everyone knows what a fantastic place it is to play golf; everyone is obsessed by the game. But would the Ryder Cup there really amount to a great deal more than another fantastic three days of golf at St Andrews or Turnberry? Here the PGA have the chance to transform the golfing landscape of a whole country."

Watching Scotland and Wales conduct their magnificent rivalry is sufficient to lift some of the layers of cynicism that have gathered on all Ryder Cup matters. A difficult choice between the two, perhaps, but in many respects the Ryder Cup committee cannot lose - unless they choose Sweden or England, that is. All will be revealed by the end of January.

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