Martin Dempster: Solheim Cup bid too close to call

Suzann Pettersen at this years Solheim Cup in Germany.  Scotland could be hosts  in 2019. Picture: GettySuzann Pettersen at this years Solheim Cup in Germany.  Scotland could be hosts  in 2019. Picture: Getty
Suzann Pettersen at this years Solheim Cup in Germany. Scotland could be hosts in 2019. Picture: Getty
THURSDAY is D-Day for the 2019 Solheim Cup, when Scotland or Sweden will be handed the honour of staging the biennial clash between Europe and the United States for a third time.

From the 10 initial expressions of interest that were submitted from a variety of nations around Europe, it’s come down to a straight fight between us and the Scandinavians, one that is way too close to call.

“We have two fantastic venues, so we are in a very good place,” admitted Ivan Khodabakhsh, the chief executive of the Ladies European Tour, as nails begin to get bitten to the quick among members of the respective bid teams.

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If it wasn’t Sweden in the opposite corner, it would be tempting to predict this one was in the bag for Scotland, especially with the prospect of another transatlantic team tussle taking place at Gleneagles after the huge success of last year’s Ryder Cup.

With that event still fresh in minds, it surely has to give the home of golf an excellent chance to play host again to an event that has already visited Dalmahoy, for its inaugural staging on this side of the Atlantic in 1992, and Loch Lomond, where it was held in 2000.

Bearing in mind that the two times Sweden has played host –at Barseback in 2003 then Halmstad four years later – have both been in the interim, it would also be nice to think that might be a factor in Scotland’s favour, but it won’t be as simple as that.

Like the Ryder Cup, the Solheim Cup has grown into a huge commercial animal, meaning the decision, which will be made by the LET’s board of directors after being presented with a detailed report from an evaluation committee that paid two-day visits to both countries within the past month, will be based on a myriad of factors.

“We are looking forward to Thursday, but you never know with these things and I have no inclination as to which way it will go,” said Paul Bush, VisitScotland’s director of events. “We had an incredibly professional two-day visit; we’ve got a very strong bid, building on 2014, not just the Ryder Cup but also the Commonwealth Games and other events; and Gleneagles is a tried-and-trusted venue.

“Without being arrogant, we also feel confident that we can build the Solheim Cup brand working with the Solheim family, Ping and the LET, but we are respectful that Sweden has a terrific track record in women’s golf, so they are a strong competitor.”

Having produced five past European captains and Annika Sorenstam, the former world No 1, a possible contender for the job in 2019, they are, indeed, and there will be no grounds for complaint, really, if Stockholm’s Bro Hoff Slott Golf Club, host venue for the Nordea Masters between 2010 and 2013 and getting that European Tour event back again next season, gets the nod over Gleneagles. As a nation, however, we should feel proud that for bids such as this we appear to be the envy of other countries due to the way we pull together and sing from the same hymnsheet. “I think what we tried to get across is that, for the 2019 Solheim Cup, they are not just getting the support of EventScotland and VisitScotland. They are getting the support of the country,” added Bush as that shone through when teams from 87 countries congregated in Glasgow at the weekend for the World Gymnastics Championships.

“Something which is really difficult to do in other countries, the ‘Team Scotland’ approach and the added value that brings is our strongest USP.

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“We tried to outline that to them in a document we sent within the last week. We’ve got something like 20-plus public and private partners that are adding to value of building the Solheim Cup in 2019.”

There’s no doubting the fact that Scotland’s first Ryder Cup for more than 40 years exceeded expectations and, building on the success of that event, we can feel confident of raising the bar quite a bit on our past Solheim Cups and, hopefully, deliver a third European win on Scottish soil.

“In a way, it is probably the easiest decision that has been made for a Solheim Cup because the two shortlisted candidates are both iconic venues,” confessed Khodabakhsh. “There is a recommendation from the evaluation committee, but, ultimately, the LET board of directors will decide on Thursday.”

May the best bid win.