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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
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
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
At first sight, Gavin Hastings seems an unlikely
revolutionary. A former pupil of George Watsons College and a Cambridge
University blue, Hastings led Scotland and the British Lions to victory on the
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
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, Bells 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 Bells
were to sponsor the (promotional) day, then thats what happens. Of course
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 nations
share of the booming world marketplace.
The bids 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. Were known as the home of golf, but in
todays 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 resorts
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
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
Ive 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
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
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
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
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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