EXTREME nationalism and rowdy drunken behaviour should have no place at the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles later this month, a former Moderator of the Church of Scotland has warned.
The Very Rev Dr James Simpson said nationalist jingoism in the golfing world as well as in politics can lead to bullying and antisocial behaviour.
At the infamous Battle of Brookline at the 33rd Ryder Cup in Massachusetts in 1999, Scot Colin Montgomerie was subjected to sustained verbal abuse from home supporters. In the wake of that incident, Tiger Woods called for an alcohol ban in a bid to stop it from happening again.
Writing in his autobiography, Montgomerie described the atmosphere at Brookline as “not far removed from mass hysteria”.
Rev Simpson, a golf fan and former captain of Royal Dornoch Golf Club in Sutherland, said: “Colin Montgomerie suffered terribly in the Ryder Cup.
“Some fans who had probably had too much to drink just seemed to take it out on him. Sometimes you get this bullying behaviour with a sort of extreme nationalism. The tension, especially on the final day, is considerable.
“There is a place for national fervour, at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games for example, when a Scottish person won a race, there’s nothing wrong with that. But when it becomes extreme and you shout down opponents, that’s when it becomes highly worrying.
“Although it can only be a few people who do this, a few can influence other people. You want to win and you want your country to win but sportsmanship is so important and you have to respect your opponent and the opposing side.
“I desperately hope the Ryder Cup won’t be spoiled but you just need one or two people getting out of hand for that to happen.”
But Bryce Ritchie, editor of Glasgow-based Bunkered golf magazine, said that after Brookline, team captains Sam Torrance and Curtis Strange changed the nature and tone of the tournament.
“Torrance and Strange were determined not to let it happen again. They worked hard to make it what it is today with lots of noise but respect on both sides.
“They were very vocal about how their players should address their opposite number and act on the course.
“But the Ryder Cup is a fun event and designed to be entertaining. [American player] Bubba Watson for one, was encouraging the crowd to shout and sing. It’s not meant to be like the Masters where players go about their business and then there is applause.”
Edward Kitson, match director for the 2014 Ryder Cup, said he was hopeful the event would pass off without trouble.
“The Ryder Cup is one of the most exciting sporting events in the world, complemented by passionate and vocal support for both teams. The match is underscored by a clear focus on team play and mutual respect.
“Golf fans, particularly those in Scotland, are incredibly knowledgeable about the game of golf and the Ryder Cup and we are extremely confident that both sets of fans will bring both passion and respect to Gleneagles in a few weeks’ time.”
The current Moderator of the Church of Scotland the Right Rev John Chalmers, who has a golfing handicap of ten, is taking time off his duties to be one of 1,700 volunteer stewards at the Ryder Cup.