Donald Trump course set to miss out on £6.5m Scottish Open deal

DONALD Trump’s new championship course near Aberdeen is unlikely to be part of a new £6.5 million three-year sponsorship deal for the Scottish Open involving Aberdeen Asset Management and the Scottish Government.

Speculation about the event, one of the European Tour’s flagship tournaments, has been rife since long-time backer Barclays pulled the plug following last year’s staging at Castle Stuart near Inverness.

It had already been confirmed that this year’s event would be returning to the Highlands venue in July, with the Tour ready to underwrite it as a one-off if a new sponsor wasn’t secured in time.

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That will still be happening in part but, following feverish activity behind the scenes driven by First Minister Alex Salmond, the cost of staging the event will now be shared three ways.

At an announcement made yesterday at Edinburgh Castle, Aberdeen Asset Management will be the new title sponsor after agreeing to pump £6.5 million into the event over the next three years. Over that same period, another £2 million is being coughed up by the Scottish Government, with part of that money coming from the pot that has been built up from cash being seized from criminal activities in the country.

Under the new deal, the prize fund for this year’s event on 12-15 July will be £2.5 million, rising to a minimum of £3 million for the 2013 and 2014 tournaments.

Where the latter two are staged remains to be seen, though the Tour have the option of one more year at Castle Stuart after this year.

However, it seems unlikely it will be heading to Trump’s new course during that period, even though it is due to open in July and has earned a flood of praise from leading golf figures during visits in recent months.

Asked if the Balmedie course may be on the radar during the term of the new deal, European Tour chief executive George O’Grady said: “It’s not really. I’ve been to the Trump course and, in my opinion, it is magnificent. But we are talking three years ahead here and, for starters, we are very happy at Castle Stuart.

“So, in this particular three years, I don’t think that [staging the Scottish Open at Trump’s course] is realistic. He might prove me wrong, but what he and I kind of agreed – not legally – is that we will go when we both think it is right.”

As soon as Barclays withdrew their sponsorship, French Open organisers contacted the Tour to say they’d jump at the chance of taking over the pre-Open Scottish Open slot if it became available.

As the search took place for a new backer, the Wentworth-based organisation also received an approach which involved a company backing the Scottish Open this year in a different guise and then taking that event around Europe in future years.

O’Grady, though, is delighted the future of the event has been secured for at least the next three years, heaping praise on Salmond for his part in the deal. “If we couldn’t get a sponsor, we were underwriting the event this year and the way it structured we will lose money on it but will see ourselves okay over the three years,” he added.

“The Scottish Open delivers well in the slot before The Open and the willingness of the First Minister to go the extra mile certainly played its part in this new sponsorship.

“Without his drive, leadership and vision, we would not have pulled this off.”