Northern Open to get Ryder Cup cash boost

Europe celebrate at the 2014 Ryder Cup, the legacy of which will help the Northern Open. Picture: Jane Barlow

Europe celebrate at the 2014 Ryder Cup, the legacy of which will help the Northern Open. Picture: Jane Barlow

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THE Ryder Cup is a money-making machine. We’ll find out soon, in fact, exactly how much last year’s event at Gleneagles was worth to the Scottish economy.

Contrary to what some may think, however, it’s not just a case of taking all the time in monetary terms as far as the one of the biggest events on the sporting calendar is concerned.

There’s some giving, too, as one of the main events on the Tartan Tour is about to discover this season. Unless a sponsor suddenly comes out of the woodwork, a £30,000 prize pot for the Northern Open will be handed over to the PGA in Scotland from the Ryder Cup Legacy Fund.

The support is similar to that provided for events in both Ireland and Wales after sponsorship markets suffered in those countries in the immediate aftermath of the 2006 and 2010 Ryder Cups.

As well as the same thing happening in Scotland, an added headache for the PGA in Scotland secretary, Brian Mair, has been the oil industry suffering its recent dip.

“Brian was struggling a bit with the Northern Open because when the oil industry has problems it has a knock-on effect,” said Sandy Jones, the The Belfry-based PGA chief executive. “Also, it’s almost a year after thing with the Ryder Cup whereby the local sponsors have done their money in.

“So the Ryder Cup is coming in to help with this year’s Northern Open. We are putting in £30,000 from the Legacy Fund to support it. We did a bit in Ireland after the Ryder Cup there. We also did a bit in Wales, though to a lesser extent than what we are doing now.

“The South West PGA couldn’t find any sponsorship at all for the Welsh Professional Championship the year after the Ryder Cup in 2010. They got £10,000 and now they’ve got Asbri Golf signed up for three years.”

Taking place at Cruden Bay on 9-12 June, the Northern Open will again be one of the Tartan Tour’s flagship events along with the Gleneagles Scottish PGA Championship over the King’s Course on 3-6 May.

“The Scottish PGA Championship, which we fortunately have Gleneagles still supporting with a £40,000 prize fund, and the Northern Open are the two main events on the Tartan Tour and always have been,” added Jones. “They probably always will be, too, as they have great history surrounding them and some great winners in the past.”

Currently consisting of eight Order of Merit events – one more could be added – as well as a normal healthy diet of pro-ams and separate circuits for assistants, seniors and ladies, this year’s Tartan Tour is expected to carry a prize pot of £625,000. A four per cent increase on last year, it’s almost double what Ireland, the next biggest region, offers in prize money, while the English-based ones are between £200,000-£250,000.

“It was a great event and great spectacle, but the Ryder Cup frustrated me in some respects,” admitted Mair, who was quick to point out that it wasn’t due to the view from his office of the first hole on the King’s Course at Gleneagles being obstructed by stands at the back of the practice range used for the event.

“It was a fantastic opportunity but I always knew that the job would start the day they took the stands away. Frankly, it’s now a case of getting on with the day job and there’s no doubt that it’s challenging. But I genuinely believe we have a world-class product and something we should be proud of.

“It’s our 40th year, as it is for all the regions apart from the East. The enjoyment for me is the challenge as I think there is an opportunity to move things forward and see where it goes.”

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