Ryder Cup ticket incentive can help game grow

SOME Scottish golf clubs are certainly getting right to the bottom of matters in gearing up for the Ryder Cup. One, for instance, is planning to have toilet rolls bearing the biennial event’s logo.

Mike Cantlay of Visit Scotland, left, and clubgolfs Jackie Davidson, right, launch Ryder Cup Ready with Stuart Callan. Picture: Kenny Smith

The majority, though, are being given a wee nudge to remind them that the eagerly-awaited spectacle at Gleneagles in September is not just about the 45,000 spectators per day or an army of volunteers.

With an estimated value of £25,000, a total of 3,000 tickets are being offered to Scottish golfers, young and old, through a new Sky Sports-supported initiative to encourage clubs to build a legacy from the event.

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Clubs must first apply for the tickets – 1,000 have been designated for them – then come up with some Ryder Cup-themed activities that demonstrate how they are being proactive in trying to both retain members and also attract new ones.

“When you came out of the cauldron that was Medinah [in 2012], you were in Chicago, just another city doing its business,” said Mike Cantlay, VisitScotland’s chairman, at yesterday’s launch of the Ryder Cup Ready “toolkit” at Bathgate Golf Club.

“Scotland will be different,” he added. “Scotland will stop for this Ryder Cup and every golfer should feel part of it because the whole principle is to ensure that every club can be involved and take part and feel part of this.”

A commitment has been made to stage top-level tournament golf in Scotland until 2018 and backing for clubgolf, a junior initiative that was launched on the back of Scotland hosting the Ryder Cup for the first time since Muirfield in 1973, has also been promised until then.

Clubgolf manager Jackie Davidson said: “What we are doing here is actually about the future.”

With many clubs facing a perilous financial situation and two in Edinburgh – Lothianburn and Torphin Hill – having been forced to close their doors within the past 12 months, she added: “The Ryder Cup is the third most-watched event after the Olympics and the World Cup. Everybody became experts on track cycling or curling during the Olympics, so we want them to be experts on golf, but not just sat on their sofas. We want them to pick up a golf club and we want golf clubs to embrace that family friendly rather than the family tolerant message. We want them to open their doors to the communities.

“The [Ryder Cup Ready] toolkit is a call to action to say be proactive, tell your communities out there what you are doing, get these people to come down to the club. That in itself is a bit of cultural change within the club, within that membership. But, let’s face it, if they don’t give that warm embrace the economic climate is going to start to hurt within these clubs.”

The Ryder Cup tickets are for both the practice and match days, the best of which will be awarded to the clubs which really take the toolkit initiative on board in the coming weeks.

“What we have to create now is the legacy,” added Cantlay. “Part of that will be tournament golf, but we need to look beyond that and that’s what this toolkit is aimed at helping. We want a legacy of showcasing Scottish golf to the world, transforming golf in our own country and I think it is fair to say that neither Wales nor Ireland had that aspiration and American Ryder Cups are different.

“We are really going here with a programme that will take Scottish golf forward. Not just on a world stage, but in Scotland itself, and in particular in club golfs such as this one at Bathgate [home of two Ryder Cup captains in Eric Brown and Bernard Gallacher] and in terms of our young people.”

Almost 600 clubs – a combination of those affiliated to either the Scottish Golf Union or the Scottish Ladies Golfing Association – are eligible for the tickets and some are already getting into the Ryder Cup spirit.

“One very close to Gleneagles is looking at having Ryder Cup-designed toilet paper,” said Davidson. “Sandyhills in Glasgow has also been staging a competition over the last few years that is linked to the Ryder Cup and it has brought in £2,500 in additional revenue. We are not necessarily asking clubs to do something new. Take an existing medal and rename it as the ‘Ryder Cup Medal’, for example.”

Cantlay’s own club, Callander, showed it is trying to think out of the box by holding a “onesy” event recently and now he wants the whole country to boost the sport by embracing September’s showpiece.

“It would be a shame if there is one single golf club or one golfer who says after the Ryder Cup, ‘ah, it did nothing for us’,” he declared. “Every opportunity is there. Everyone has a chance to be part of this.”