FIRST Minister Alex Salmond believes the projected £100 million windfall provided by the Ryder Cup to Scotland’s economy now appears a “huge underestimate,” stressing that the prestigious golf tournament is “getting bigger” all the time.
Mr Salmond said “anticipation couldn’t be higher” for the event at Gleneagles in 2014, which will be a “fantastic opportunity” for the economy and will act as a “great stimulus” for the profile of golf in Scotland.
It comes as plans are gathering pace to recognise Scot Paul Lawrie’s achievements in helping Europe overcome the odds to clinch a dramatic victory, with discussions ongoing about a special homecoming event in his home city of Aberdeen.
He was part of Jose Maria Olazabal’s side that staged one of the most unlikely comebacks in the history of the competition to overcome a vast points deficit on the final day of play and defeat their US counterparts 14½ to 13½.
Mr Salmond was in Medinah, Illinois, to watch the remarkable conclusion to the match, and was later handed the ceremonial Silver Putter on behalf of Gleneagles, which will host the tournament in two years.
Speaking to The Scotsman in the US, he said Scotland enjoyed a “huge presence” at the Ryder Cup, adding: “If you watched TV you would see the St Andrews tie, the Saltire… the Scottish stand at the back. I walked the entire 18 holes with Paul Lawrie, and after American and European flags there were more Scottish flags than any other countries, and big ones.”
Discussing how the tourney would benefit Scotland, he added: “We originally estimated £100m for [the] Scottish economy. I think that is a huge underestimate. I think that was based on what the Ryder Cup was. It’s getting bigger all the time. It’s a fantastic opportunity in economic terms.
“The Ryder Cup has developed into a unique event in golf. People are not going to behave as they would in a normal tournament. This is special. This is not another golf tournament. It is the biggest golf match on earth. Therefore passion has to be there, and I have no problem with that. On the contrary, I want to see it replicated in Scotland.”
Mr Salmond also emphasised that the benefits of the event would not be confined to a single week in 2014, and he urged people to come to Scotland “now and afterwards,” and “not just for Gleneagles for one week”.
It comes as Gleneagles looks forward to its moment in the spotlight. Bernard Murphy, general manager of the Gleneagles Hotel, said yesterday: “After the excitement of the weekend’s action at Medinah, we are delighted that the silver putter has now been handed over to Scotland, and the countdown to the Ryder Cup 2014 has begun in earnest.”
Meanwhile, authorities in Aberdeen are looking to organise an event to pay tribute to Lawrie’s role in helping Europe make history.
Aberdeen City Council said Lord Provost George Adam was “considering ways to mark Mr Lawrie’s achievement,” with the provost having written to the player to offer his best wishes.
Mr Adam said: “Along with his European team mates, Paul delivered a truly inspirational performance, one that is a source of great pride for everyone in the city.”
Only last week, the player – a keen football fan – said he was dreaming of parading the Ryder Cup at Pittodrie.