Thursday, 19 July 2012

Championship Golf. Only About The Money?

The Open has started so there'll be loads and loads of stuff about golf quoted on sites throughout the world but the first one that jumped out on me was the interview on the BBC website with R&A head Peter Dawson.

Now I've never met Peter Dawson and he probably doesn't really care what I think of the statement about Royal Portrush but I do think it deserves some analysis if not some criticism

There is of course the danger that he has been misquoted or misinterpreted but the message in the piece regarding the fitness of purpose of Royal Portrush to host a future Open Championship.

"There would be much work to do for an Open ever to go to Portrush," siad Dawson.

"We have been there before. It's always, to an extent, been on our radar and our championship committee, I'm sure, will continue to evaluate it. But don't expect anything imminent - that's for sure."

That's fine but it the tone of what is then said; 

"If you were at the Irish Open and compare it to what we're doing here, we're talking 20,000 grandstand seats here. I doubt if there were 2,000 at the Irish Open. You're talking about a tented village here that I would estimate is 10 or more times the size than it was at the Irish Open.The crowd size at the Irish Open, while it was very, very good, was only as good as perhaps the lowest we would expect at an Open venue, ie Turnberry. Where would you put the big grandstand complex? The practice ground at Portrush would [also] need a lot of work, in my estimation. We don't have a finishing hole that would have the grandstands around it."

A lot of negatives and not a lot of pluses. But is it not this mindset that has possibly caused the current problems in for example Scottish football. Everything with a commercial price but little value, biggest being best, follow the broadcasting deals and sponsorship opportunities. A lack of sporting integrity?

The Open is more than some commercial opportunity and most of the big players recognise the history. I have been lucky to have watched Open first as a son way back at Murifeld in '72 and then as a father most recently at Turnberry in Ayrshire. I also had the dream job of being 18 and caddying for amateur qualifier Chris Poxon in the '82 Open at Troon.

And the best was then a couple of years ago myself and the Captain, Secretary and Pro at Prestwick all  went out and played from the cairn marking the spot of the original first hole of that historic course on the anniversary of the very first Open Championship 150 years earlier.

And on that day of the 150th anniversary of The Open Championship there was nothing on the R&A website, no press releases issued, no recognition of it at all.  We just teed off and reminisced to ourselves.

None of these events ever had anything to do with money but are all full of emotion and memories.

So when I see such a downplaying of such a magnificent venue you have to question whether golf is in safe hands over on the east coast.

Taking The Open back to Royal Portrush would involve a host of changes for sure but are they bad?

An Open that only attracted 200,000 over six days. Bad? No massive stands around the 18th. Bad? Practice ground logistics. Overcome as they have been with other venues. A smaller tented village. Well I for one could live without the overpriced branded goods that the R&A shamelessly cash in on.

Taking The Open back to Royal Portrush would be so much more than a golf event. It would be (another) defining moment for the inhabitants of that country (north and south) and quite possibly end up being one of the finest, friendliest events in Open history. And even if it was a one off, never to return, the statement from golf's governing body would be clear and be inclusive and be an indication that perhaps there is still some decisions made in the game that we love that are not simply about the largest sponsorship deal possible.

Maybe I'll bump into Peter Dawson at next's week's Seniors Open at Turnberry and I can ask him about why they couldn't just do something for the good of the game without undertaking a Cost Benefit Analysis.

Hopefully Darren Clarke will beat me to it...


Read the Full BBC Article
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