The fading glory of the Scottish PGA Championship has been lamented by one former competitor while another has said it is no surprise in the current economic climate and believes players need to do their bit to breathe new life into the event.
This week’s PGA in Scotland event at Downfield is taking place without a title sponsor, and with 132 players effectively playing for their own money after each paying £120 to enter the Tartan Tour’s flagship event.
Paul O’Hara, one of the first-round pacesetters at the Dundee venue, said the grand old tournament “feels like a sweep” as a consequence, adding that many others in the field share his “disappointment” about the paltry prize fund.
“I used to play in the same event at Dalmahoy in the 90s,” said Alan Tait, a well-kent face on the Scottish golfing scene, in a post on social media as he responded to O’Hara’s comments in The Scotsman on Wednesday.
“Ten thousand spectators a day, live on BBC with Alex Hay, “ he recalled. “Tented village, £60k prize fund, teeing it up with Monty, Lawrie, Torrance, Orr, Lyle, Jacklin, Coltart. Incredible when you think about it.
“Total prize fund this week was about the first prize back then. If you had told me this was going to happen 25 years ago, I would have laughed in your face and politely asked, ‘What planet are you on?’
“I actually have huge respect for my 132 fellow pros for even bothering to play in it. All taken a few days off work and will need to finish probably in the top ten or 12 to financially break even for their efforts. Where do we go from here?”
Florida-based PGA pro Neil Lockie, son of former Kilmarnock (Barassie) professional Bill, added: “A fond memory growing up was coming in from playing the junior medal to see everyone huddled round the TV to see my dad paired with Sam Torrance and birdie three of the last five to get in contention at Erskine in 1991.
“The Tartan Tour was legendary in those days! Back then not everyone had Sky. The world is much smaller now and interest in local golf anywhere is greatly diminished.”
The Northern Open, the other ‘major’ on the Tartan Tour, is also without a sponsor at the moment, with this year’s event at Newmachar taking place over just 36 holes rather than the traditional 72.
“The big question has got to be, in the current economical climate, what does a sponsor get out of this event,” said Tom Buchanan, who played in the Scottish PGA Championship when he was based at Duddingston before moving to the United Arab Emirates.
“Yes, it is the flagship event of the year, but if I am going to invest 50k in it, what do I get back? Gone are the days when the big names of Scottish golf played in the event which attracted crowds and mass media coverage.
“PGA and fellow professionals need to have a look at what they are giving the sponsors back, otherwise it is all going one way, in my opinion.”
On a weather-affected second day at Downfield, course-record holder Alastair Forsyth moved into a share of the clubhouse lead with Thomas Higson, one of the circuit’s rising stars. The pair sit on eight-under after Forsyth shot a 68 and Higson carded a 69. O’Hara and Graham Fox, the other overnight leader after an opening 67, are among the players still to complete their second circuits.