THE Commonwealth Games has made it a hard act to follow but European Ryder Cup officials are confident Scotland can deliver another sporting spectacle to remember at Gleneagles next month.
“I had the privilege of going up to the Commonwealth Games and I can only congratulate the Scottish Government and the people of Glasgow as it was bouncing up there – it was outstanding,” Richard Hills, the European Ryder Cup director, told The Scotsman at Valhalla.
“I was at the opening ceremony and took my daughter to the hockey and it was a great atmosphere.
“The friendliness of the people was great and there was a real buzz in the city.
“I think it possibly has added extra pressure to deliver a successful Ryder Cup, but all of the team behind the scenes from George [European Tour chief executive George O’Grady] downwards – [PGA chief executive] Sandy Jones, too, of course – are all very excited about it.”
Scotland’s first Ryder Cup since the 1973 match at Muirfield has been 13 years in the making, the home of golf having been announced as the 2014 venue at the same time Wales got the 2010 event in September 2001.
“It’s been invigorating working in Scotland and some of the programmes the Ryder Cup has activated – whether it be educational or the junior programme – are wonderful,” added Hills.
“The event has also been able to assist with the Scottish tourism industry and that side of the event has certainly grown since it started to take off after Valderrama in 1997.
“We’ve been able to project the Ryder Cup going forward more and more since then.
“Gleneagles have been totally professional in everything they’ve done. The re-engagement of Jack Nicklaus with the golf course was a great move and [course superintendent] Scott Fenwick and his team, in conjunction with [European Tour chief agronomist] Richard Stilwell, have got the course in really good order.”
Hills worked for an agency that was involved with the European Tour when the 1983 match was played at Walton Heath. “It was still guy rope tents and green baize tables on trestles,” he recalled. “A different animal to what it is today.”
Indeed, next month’s event will be worth around £100 million to the Scottish economy. The fact this one is in the home of golf seems to be attracting even more attention than the last two home matches for Europe – in Ireland and Wales.
“There’s certainly an awful lot of focus on a Ryder Cup in Scotland, as we have seen this week,” admitted Hills.
“The whole process has been demanding and we are looking forward to things getting underway at Gleneagles.”