Scotland bags major slice of the Women’s British Open
SINCE the Ricoh Women’s British Open was first held at Fulford in 1976, one of the idiosyncrasies of the women’s major was that over 32 years it was only staged twice in Scotland, at the Old Course in St Andrews last summer and the Ailsa at Turnberry in 2002.
Now, however, thanks to a 600,000 deal announced yesterday in St Andrews between EventScotland, the national events agency, and the Ladies Golf Union, nike air organiser of the Women’s Open, the championship will be staged five times in Scotland between 2011 and 2020.
In a break with past practice which prevented the LGU from staging its flagship event at a men only club, Shona Malcolm, the chief executive of the LGU, indicated it would now be happy to hold discussions with either Muirfield or Royal Troon, the two Scottish links on the Open rota where the clubs don’t have women members, about staging the Women’s British Open.
Malcolm also revealed that the championship would not necessarily be held on a links and they would look at outstanding parkland courses on a par with Gleneagles and Loch Lomond. She said the LGU had an open mind about Scottish venues and did not rule out the possibility of also utilising more modern links such as Kingsbarns, near St Andrews, Archerfield in East Lothian and Dundonald in Ayrshire.
When Malcolm responded to a question about men only venues by stating the LGU was “very open” to choosing the best sites, Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond interjected by saying: “It might encourage them to change their ways.” Later, he declined to expand on that observation, other than to confirm it reflected his view of men only clubs.
When the LGU commissioned its own survey of female opinion on golf in 2006, there was widespread opposition among lady go nike air lfers to the Women’s Open ever being held at a men only club. With the game worth about 300million each year to the Scottish economy, Salmond wants to grow golf tourism here by at least 50 per cent in the years ahead. By adding the Women’s Open approximately every other summer to a portfolio which already includes the Open championship three times in every five years, the Ryder Cup in 2014, the Seniors Open in two years out of three, the Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond, the Johnnie Walker at Gleneagles and the Dunhill Links at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns each season, Salmond believes golf could eventually be worth 500m a year to Scotland.
The First Minister did not go so far as to say Scotland had taken its golfing heritage for granted in the recent past, but he was aware of the strides taken by Ireland in promoting golf tourism and now the home of golf was also taking a pro active stance.
“Golf and Scotland are synonymous, but these things don’t happen by themselves,” he reasoned. “We have the best courses in the world and facilities which are second to none. You’ve got to work at it.”
He described the partnership with the LGU as an “umbilical link” and recalled the success of the Women’s Open won by Lorena Ochoa, the world No1, at the Old Course last summer. That event generated 7.5m for the Scottish economy as well as providing more than 356 hours of global TV coverage from 26 broadcasters.
“The success of the 2007 event here at St Andrews proved once again that there is nowhere better to stage major golfing events than here in Scotland, the home of golf,” he added. “I’m delighted to announce that EventScotland and the Ricoh Women’s Open have agreed a ten year partnership which guarantees Scotland will host the Women’s Open on at least five occasions between 2011 and 2020. This prestigious event is an excellent showcase for Scottish golf and tourism.”
A golfer himself, Salmond knows a slice from a hook, even if he can’t always control his own left to right ball flight as accurately as he would wish.
He was well aware that half of the recent Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup side Carly Booth, Krystle Caithness, Sally Watson and Michelle Thomson were all Scots and speculated that by the time the Women’s Open returns to the home of golf one or more of this group of talented young players might challenge for the title. According to Malcolm, the Women’s Open, which is at Sunningdale this week, Lytham next year and Birkdale in 2010, will not always alternate on an annual basis between Scotland and England from 2011 onwards.
Just as with the rota for the men’s Open, the cycle will depend on availability.
Talks are already underway with two Scottish venues, but she declined to identify those courses.
The LGU has not been awash with funds in recent years and Malcolm agreed the investment of 600,000 from EventScotland was a welcome fillip for her organisation.
Paul Bush from EventScotland added: “This deal confirms Scotland’s position as the home of golf as we now have the finest golf portfolio in Europe no other country can match it. A key part of our work as we nike air prepare to host the Ryder Cup in 2014 is securing professional events that broaden interest and participation in sport. Our investment of 600,000 to secure this deal underlines that commitment.”
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