HAVING tossed its hat into the ring for the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open as part of it “going on tour”, a more exciting announcement could yet lie in wait for Dundonald Links, the Ayrshire sister course of Loch Lomond.
For the moment, however, it is happy to be growing its reputation as a tournament venue, the success of events such as the Glenmuir Club Professionals Championship, Senior Open qualifying and an opening stage of the European Tour Q-School now being followed by it being unveiled as the home of a new Tartan Tour event.
The P&H Championship, set to carry a £50,000 prize fund and guaranteed for three years, will be one of the showpiece events on a 2014 schedule that will boast a total cash kitty close to £700,000 – an increase on recent years as Brian Mair, the PGA in Scotland secretary, continues to do a sterling job for the domestic circuit.
The 54-hole stroke-play event will be unique on the Tartan Tour in that it will not only carry an overall prize but also separate ones for the leading club pro, assistant and senior after two rounds, at which stage a field of around 100 will be cut to the top 40.
The abbreviaton for Palmer & Harvey, P&H is a wholesaler with its head office in Sussex but with branches in both Dunfermline and Bellshill. The company sponsors Stephen McAllister, the former European Tour winner who now plays on the Senior Tour, and he joined Guy Redford, the director of golf at Dundonald Links, in welcoming the new event. “This is a good fit between Dundonald and the PGA and also with Palmer and Harvey,” said McAllister on a windswept day at the Kyle Phillips-designed course. “[P&H chief executive] Chris Etheringon and I have known each other for ten years, and I have always felt that something would work, and be a huge success, and I think this is just a start of things to come.
“Palmer and Harvey are very committed to the event and I am really excited about it. The format is slightly different as we are bringing everyone together.”
Redford, who has been instrumental in Dundonald Links growing its visitor traffic since the course opened its doors to the golfing public after initially being for the exclusive use of Loch Lomond members, added: “It’s a great fit for Dundonald. We want to be recognised as a tournament venue and have aspirations to host future events, and I think having the P&H Championship is fanastic for us.”
It will tee-off the newly-branded Virgin Atlantic Order of Merit, a series that will see the Tour’s flagship event, the Gleneagles PGA Scottish Championship, moved to an early-season slot in May. It will be one of two 72-hole events along with the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre Northern Open, with the eight counting events also including the Paul Lawrie Invitational – a 54-holer.
With a new Seniors’ Tour – it will be for players aged 45 and over – having been added to the Ladies’ Tartan Tour announced earlier in the month, there’s something for everyone – and Mair might not be finished yet.
“We are still looking for a couple of 36-hole events and those would be the cherry on the cake,” he said. “But we are confident that we have a schedule that can take things forward. I reckon we will be disappointed if the total Tour would be shy of £700,000. That’s what we are aiming for this year.”