SANDY Jones, chief executive of the Professional Golfers’ Association, has called for the “core values” of the Ryder Cup to be retained and is vowing to ensure it does not become an event that entails “squeezing every penny out of it”.
The Belfry-based organisation is the custodian of the gold trophy, named after Sam Ryder, that will be played for on Scottish soil for the first time since 1973 when Gleneagles stages the biennial match in September.
The PGA’s concerns about commercialism in the Ryder Cup once led Jones to threaten to lock it in a cupboard and, though relations with the European Tour are significantly better these days, the Scot is determined to keep a watching brief in his final few years in office.
While he once gave the impression he’d retire straight after the match at Gleneagles, where he has a property nearby, he is hoping to stay for the 2016 match at Hazeltine and perhaps the encounter at Golf National in Paris two years after that.
“My position hasn’t changed in the sense that I said I would retire after Gleneagles. I regret having made that statement because everybody assumes that it is immediately after Gleneagles. But I never determined how long after,” he said.
“I would say now, touch wood, health and all that happens in the world, I’d certainly like to still be in office when we go to Hazeltine in 2016 then take a view on whether or not I want to do France after that.
“I feel the dynamic might change as we go towards France. I more see our role being about reminding people where the Ryder Cup came from and that’s what the exhibition that is on show in the Scottish Parliament is all about.
“We’ve got to remember those core values of the match. The integrity, the respect, not squeezing every penny out of it. We’ve got to be more Augusta-like, where they do it quietly and effectively. It’s not in-your-face commercialism.
“I said to [former European Tour chief executive] Ken [Schofield] that if that happened we would just lock the Ryder Cup in the cupboard. I would hate to have to repeat that comment. But we have developed a good working relationship since then.”
Jones is confident Scotland will deliver a Ryder Cup to be proud of, with the infrastructure for the third-biggest sporting event on the global calendar set to start taking shape in just over a month.
“It’s amazing when you travel around the world the first thing you get is, ‘Will it be raining at Gleneagles?’ Well, it could be. That’s why we have so many lochs in Scotland. We don’t fill them up artificially,” he added.
“But, if you recall Valderrama in 1997 it was as wet as you can get (there were thunderstorms early on the first morning), and it was as bad in Ireland [in 2006].
“We’ve had driving rain there. We could hit one of those good autumn weeks. You might get mist in the morning, but it doesn’t sit all day normally there. It usually disappears and it usually means it’s going to be a very nice day.”
Jones revealed he had not been surprised when Tom Watson was appointed as the United States captain for September’s match, though he reckons Ted Bishop, his counterpart on the PGA of America, could just as easily have picked Jack Nicklaus to try and revive American fortunes in the event.
“At the opening of the Ryder Cup exhibition in the Scottish Parliament, the Presiding Officer talked about Watson being a legend in Scotland and that the people in Scotland will be very fair to him.
“I said, ‘Yes they will be very fair to him, but when that gun goes they won’t be supporting him’.
“That [Watson’s appointment] is a Ted Bishop thing. He chose Tom and knew a year before Medinah that he was going to pick Tom.
“Ted said he needed a captain that knows how to win. Are you telling me that Jack Nicklaus doesn’t know how to win, or Corey Pavin, Davis Love? And then for Ted to say, ‘We need someone who understands European golf and Scottish golf’. Well, Gleneagles is an American-style course.
“It’s nothing to do with that. If you really wanted someone who really knew Gleneagles why not get Nicklaus? Jack built the bloody course.”