Turn your back for five minutes - okay, it was a week’s holiday - and all sorts of things have been happening in the golf world. A first Scandinavian, for instance, being appointed as a Ryder Cup captain, and can anyone really grumble about Thomas Bjorn getting the nod for the 2018 match in Paris, even if it could possibly have been at the expense of one of our own, Paul Lawrie? Probably not, though it was ludicrous surely for a colleague to claim that Lawrie was “never worthy of consideration” by the five-man selection committee tasked with trying to get Europe back to winning ways in the biennial event following the defeat this year at Hazeltine.
So, a major champion, an eight-time winner in total, a two-time Ryder Cup player and also now a vice-captain for that event, a four-time Seve Trophy player, a two-time Royal Trophy player and someone, to boot, who has played on the European Tour for 25 years isn’t even “worthy” of having his name in the frame?
That’s simply being disrespectful, in my opinion, though it was another story involving Lawrie to break last week that merits deeper scrutiny because Scotland as a golfing nation should be hanging its head in shame over the loss of the Paul Lawrie Match Play to Germany. Yes, that’s right, an event bearing the name of one of this country’s most successful golfers over the past 20 years is being held in 2017 closer to Austria than Aberdeen.
Why? Well, the simple reason is that, in its two stagings so far, the tournament was not supported in the way it either deserved or needed to be by Scottish golf fans. Sorry, but there’s no point beating about the bush here when something so embarrassing like this has happened. And, make no mistake, for Scotland to lose this tournament is embarrassing.
In its first year at Murcar Links, an attendance of just 11,000 for the week - and that was despite adult tickets being priced at £15 and children under 18 being admitted free of charge and also receiving a baseball cap - was simply abysmal. Though no-one actually ever came out and said as much, the event was a financial disaster.
The North-East public let Lawrie down and so, too, I’m afraid did the people of Edinburgh and East Lothian because this year’s tournament at Archerfield Links also failed to get nearly as many spectators through the gates as a European Tour event, especially one that is a bit different to the staple stroke-play diet, merits.
The combined result, unfortunately, is that Lawrie’s management company and the event promoters, 4Sports & Entertainment, can’t run the risk of staging it for a third time in Scotland, hence the announcement that the Quellness Golf Resort Bad Griesbach in Bavaria will be the new venue next August.
Don’t even think about criticising them or Lawrie for that decision. The same goes for the main partners involved in this year’s event - East Lothian Council, Archerfield Links, VisitScotland and Aberdeen Asset Management - because, just like at Murcar Links and with Saltire Energy as the title sponsor there - they all worked hard to put on a top-class event.
The finger of blame for this one is directly aimed at the Scottish golfing public, and let’s hope this is a real shock to the system as far as they are concerned. After all, there have definitely been signs that people are starting to take for granted what golf offerings they should feel fortunate to have on almost an annual basis. The Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, for instance, hasn’t been as well supported in recent years as it should have been. Indeed, with prize-money for next year’s staging having been hiked up to £5.6 million through it being part of the European Tour’s new Rolex Series, it’s time for us to show how grateful we are to see our national Open command one of the most-coveted slots on the global golfing calendar.
Unfortunately, the damage is done now as far as the Paul Lawrie event is concerned and it really is shocking that someone that has done so much for the game in this country hasn’t been backed in the way he shoud have been, particularly after coming up with something different and exciting for the European Tour. As a nation, we can’t afford to take anything for granted and this, I’m afraid, is a perfect example.