It was announced recently that the circuit’s flagship event was moving from its traditional May slot to the autumn in two years’ time, a change instigated by a decision to bring the US PGA Championship forward to the spring.
The actual dates for the BMW PGA Championship have still to be confirmed, but EventScotland have contacted Pelley, pictured, to request it stays away from 13-15 September, when Gleneagles will be staging the 16th Solheim Cup.
“I have formally written to Keith Pelley saying you have to keep that week sacrosanct,” said Paul Bush, EventScotland’s chief operating officer. “The BMW and the Solheim going head-to-head would be a disaster. We don’t want a clash; we don’t need to have a clash.”
A record crowd of just under 125,000 attended last week’s match in Des Moines and, while it would be unrealistic to expect that for the event in Perthshire, every possible step is being taken to try to ensure the Solheim Cup in Scotland is well supported.
Unlike next year, when the men’s and women’s Scottish Opens, the Open Championship and the Senior Open Championship are all held in the sport’s cradle over a three-week period, the summer schedule in 2019 will be a lot lighter. The Open Championship is being held in Ireland that year while both the Senior Open and the Women’s British Open are also taking place outside Scotland, meaning there will be less pressure on fans to keep coughing up money.
“July to September is a sufficient gap,” added Bush, speaking after the baton for the next event had been handed over to Scotland in Iowa.
“One of the big things going for us is that those who went to Gleneagles in 2014 for the Ryder Cup really enjoyed it.
“One of the advantages in 2019 is that we will have parking on site (which wasn’t the case for the men’s equivalent three years ago).
“There will also be crèches there, so people can put [young children] into the crèche and go and watch the golf.”
Since staging Scotland’s first Ryder Cup for more than 40 years, Gleneagles has come under new ownership, having been bought by London-based hospitality group Ennismore from Diageo in a deal reported to be worth £200 million.
Bernard Murphy, who has remained as managing director, is confident the venue will prove as popular with players and spectators for the Solheim Cup as it did for that Ryder Cup, when Paul McGinley masterminded a 16½-11½ victory over an American side led by Tom Watson.
“Before the Ryder Cup, we invested very heavily in parts of the courses and now the new owners, who are hugely excited, have come in with a big appetite to capture what Gleneagles was built for,” he said, also speaking in Des Moines, where he was joined by director of golf Gary Silcock and Billy McKay, the resort’s golf marketing manager.
“It was built as a great big playground and we’re getting back to our heritage and making sure everything sits and fits exactly how it should.
“Golf is a big part of that heritage, having started five years before the hotel opened, and having a real key tournament like the Solheim Cup fits in with that strategy.” Before the Solheim Cup, Gleneagles is set to stage the European Team Championships, which will involve players from both the European Tour and the Ladies European Tour, next August, when the action will be shown on terrestrial television in Europe. “It’s very much a good lead up to the Solheim Cup,” said Murphy of that event.
After that, there’s a strong possibility of other tournaments being held at a venue that was popular with fans when it staged the Scottish Open and also the Johnnie Walker Championship, which was last held in 2013, when Tommy Fleetwood claimed his maiden victory on the European Tour.
“Yes, absolutely we would,” replied Murphy to being asked about future events.
“The hotel had been sold by Diageo at the point we bid for the Solheim Cup, so it’s the current owners who supported us getting this. I think that’s an indication going forward that we’d very much like to have great golf tournaments in the future, on any one of the courses, actually, it doesn’t have to be the PGA Centenary Course.”
During the 2014 Ryder Cup, McGinley’s meticulous planning included a fish tank in the home team room in the blue and gold European colours. “We still have it,” revealed Murphy, laughing. “It’s in our project director’s office, but it’s alive and well and we may see it make a second appearance.”