While it certainly won’t feature the strongest golfing line up in Scotland this year, the inaugural European Team Championships at Gleneagles in August will nonetheless carry an element of intrigue due to it being an historic affair for the sport.
Part of the innovative multi-sport Glasgow 2018 European Championships, the event in Perthshire will be the first in golf to have a 50/50 gender split in the field while players from the European Tour and Ladies European Tour will also be competing for equal prize money.
Spread over five days on the PGA Centenary Course, venue for the 2014 Ryder Cup and set to host the Solheim Cup next year, it involves three separate team events – one for men and one for women running simultaneously before culminating in a mixed tournament.
The winning two-player teams in the men’s and women’s events will each pick up around £175,000 while just over £25,000 is the top prize in the mixed tournament, which will involve teams consisting of four players.
Any Scots involved will be competing under the Great Britain flag as the event is falling into line with the rest of the sports – athletics, aquatics, cycling, gymnastics, rowing and triathlon – making up the Glasgow 2018 European Championships.
Both European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley and Mark Lichtenhein, the Ladies European Tour chairman, are excited about the event, which will receive television coverage on free-to-air channels across Europe, being on their respective schedules.
“This is an exciting addition to the 2018 European Tour schedule, and we are looking forward to this unique event at Gleneagles,” said Pelley, who has led the way in being innovative in golf over the past couple of years. “There is a need for golf to embrace new formats and engage a wider audience, and following our recent announcement about the inclusion of female players in the revolutionary GolfSixes tournament, the European Championships presents yet another innovative opportunity to break new ground on a number of fronts.
“The opportunity to represent your country is a great honour that many players experience at amateur level, but the opportunities are fewer when they become professional. Add to this the match- play element, and of course the intriguing prospect of the mixed team event, it all points to being a fantastic event for spectators at Gleneagles and those watching on free-to-air television across Europe.”
Concurring, Lichtenhein added: “This will be a totally unique event and we are extremely pleased that the men and women will play competitively together for equal prize money.
“As we have seen through the Olympic Games in Rio, the recent Oates Vic Open in Australia and the announcement to have mixed teams in the GolfSixes in the UK, there is a tremendous public appetite to see men and women competing.
“The format is terrific and the fact that the event will be shown throughout Europe via free-to-air television presents an unprecedented opportunity to bring new fans to the game.”
Qualification will be through a points list running from 10 July last year to 9 July this year, with Great Britain, as the host nation, automatically providing one of the 16 teams and being able to have a maximum of three teams, as is the case with every other nation.
“Scotland is no stranger to innovation when it comes to golf, so it is fitting that history will once again be made with men and women competing side-by-side in the European Golf Team Championships,” said Sports Minister Aileen Campbell.
As for the players who could be involved, it won’t be any of the leading European men, unfortunately, as they will be competing in the final major of the season, the USPGA Championship, that week. The hope, therefore, from a Scottish pesrepctive will be that the GB teams will include at least one of the following: Bradley Neil, Connor Syme, Grant Forrest, Michele Thomson, Kylie Henry, Pamela Pretswell Asher or Kelsey MacDonald.
Meanwhile, Marc Warren made the best start among four Scots in the Hero Indian Open on a day when Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo tamed the testing Gary Player Course at DLF Golf and Country Club in New Delhi with a course record-equalling 65 to hold a two-shot lead when play was halted due to darkness.
Warren signed for six birdies in his opening 68 to sit joint seventh as Scott Jamieson and Stephen Gallacher carded matching 72s and David Drysdale had a 79 that included a damaging quadruple-bogey 9 at the 18th.
Grillo’s card included eight birdies to sit two strokes ahead of Pablo Larrazabal of Spain, Italian Matteo Manassero and American Paul Peterson.
Next year’s European Tour schedule will include a first visit to Saudia Arabia for a new event at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City. The event will form part of the circuit’s early-season Desert Swing.