With the Ryder Cup still fresh in our minds, Bryce Ritchie looks at the positives we can take from the announcement that Scotland will host the Solheim Cup - the biggest event in ladies’ golf - at Gleneagles in 2019
A Little over a year since the dust settled on ‘Glory in the Glen’, Gleneagles is in the global spotlight once again. The Solheim Cup, the ladies’ golf equivalent of the Ryder Cup, is coming to the Pertshire resort in 2019.
Bro Hof Slott Golf Club, the Swedish resort that went head-to-head against the Scottish bid, was tipped late in the day to get the nod - but, if you look a little closer, the Swedes have had more than their fair share of Solheim influence through the years. Too much, you could say.
The best bid, by far - and that’s despite the millions thrown down by the owner of Bro Hof - was the Scottish one. Gleneagles was the underdog prior to the Ryder Cup, with some not convinced it had what it takes to put on a show. By 10am on the Friday morning, when the first tee had graced televisions around the world, the critics were silent. The PGA Centenary venue clicked, and it clicked perfectly for the magnitude and requirements for what is rightly now the third biggest sporting event in the world.
That drama, and that setting, will be perfect to help raise the stature of women’s golf by way of the Solheim Cup. It’s already a great event, and Gleneagles will only make it better.
But besides the benefits to the event itself, there are many reasons why the golf industry in Scotland should be delighted that Gleneagles got the nod.
1. MORE MONEY WILL COME INTO THE GAME
You can’t grow a sport or develop a sport without significant funding, and the Ryder Cup certainly helped fill the coffers. Prior to the Gleneagles showcase last year, the Scottish Government announced a £1million funding package for the sport over four years. That money helped the golfing bodies in this country - now, of course, collectively working as one under the name of Scottish Golf - fund new ways to encourage golf club memberships and attract a new generation of players to the sport. The money, which was announced by the First Minster Alex Salmond, stops in 2018. Current First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is a known supporter of golf (although she doesn’t play) and is said to be keen to carry the torch held by Salmond and show golf some love. With that in mind, the Solheim could lead to more funding coming into the game. There are 223,000 members in Scotland, which was up by 2.14% in 2014. Events like the Ryder Cup did have an impact on the sport in a positive way, and that’s why the Solheim Cup coming to Scotland is massive for the development of the sport in this country.
2. GIRLS GRASSROOTS GOLF WILL GET A BOOST
Just recently, it was announced that junior girls’ membership in Scotland rose by 3% following the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. If all factors combined, imagine what impact a
world-class ‘girls only’ event could have on girls’ golf in this country? ClubGolf, the national junior programme, has been a huge success but the Solheim Cup will give it extra growth and that can only be a good thing. Scottish Golf also recently increased the number of Regional Club Development Officers from three to eight. According to Scottish Golf, these staff members provide ‘dedicated face-to-face business support’ to clubs, helping them work out the best way to attract and retain members, relative to their market. This all happened post-Ryder Cup. The impact on grassroots golf of major events like the Solheim Cup cannot be ignored - and it will give a real focus to clubs trying to encourage more girls to try the sport.
3. MATCHPLAY IS MORE EXCITING AND WILL INTEREST KIDS
Matchplay golf brings a whole new look to golf, and one that is more attractive to kids. Ten-year-old boys and girls could be easily excused from being bored attending a strokeplay event. But with a smaller field, fewer matches and more focus on what’s right in front of you, the matchplay format of the Solheim will make a far greater first impression on young newcomers to the sport. The more kids involved in 2019, the better.
4. CATRIONA MATTHEW COULD BOOK-END HER SOLHEIM CAREER
One way to get the crowds going in 2019 is to throw in a local hero. Even better, throw in a local hero as captain of the home side. Step forward Catriona Matthew, an eight-time Solheim Cup player, who says she would ‘love’ to lead the side. “It would be the perfect time,” she said. Matthew, a former winner of the Women’s British Open, is one of Scotland’s most successful golfers of the past 20 years and captaining the European team on home soil would be the perfect celebration of her career in her home country. She would be 50 by the time the Solheim comes round. Or, as Scottish Club Golfer’s Michael McEwan so eloquently put it, Matthew will “do a Monty” and finish on a high.
5. IT WILL SHOWCASE THE FULL SPECTRUM OF SCOTTISH GOLF
The Ryder Cup helped present Scottish golf in a different light. Whilst their attachment to the historic element of the sport in this country cannot be ignored, there is more to golf in Scotland than links courses. Gleneagles helped demonstrate that fact to the world, with the local area experiencing a massive upturn in interest. “The Ryder Cup and Junior Ryder Cup were magnificent for Perth and Kinross and these events have left a powerful legacy here that our community and visitors continue to enjoy,” said councillor Ian Miller, leader of the Administration for Perth & Kinross Council.
6. THE JUNIOR SOLHEIM CUP will get A HUGE PLAtFORM
Whilst the mainstream media may have glossed over it, the Junior Ryder Cup was one of the biggest success stories of last year’s Ryder Cup. Held on the Monday and the Tuesday of Ryder Cup week, the event attracted thousands of spectators to host venue Blairgowrie. The girls’ only version - the Junior Solheim Cup - could do wonders for increasing the interest of young girls in golf. It could also give birth to the careers of some future stars, with Jordan Spieth having played in the Junior Ryder Cup in the past, and Charley Hull, Jessica Korda, Alison Lee, and Lexi Thompson experiencing Junior Solheim fanfare.
7. HOME STARS WILL BE INSPIRED TO PLAY THEIR BEST GOLF
Last, but not least, is the inspiration a Scottish Solheim will instill in Scottish players. Stephen Gallacher said the thought of making the team for the Ryder Cup in Scotland forced him to play some of the best golf of his career - and the likes of Sally Watson, Pamela Pretswell, Kylie Walker and Carly Booth will be eager to make that European side. Outwith the efforts of Matthew, no Scot has played in the Solheim Cup since 2009. Commenting on making the team in 2014, Gallacher said. “It was my lifetime ambition,” he said. “I’m proud that I’m sitting here.”
SOLHEIM CUP WINNERS
United States Germany, 2015
Europe Colorado, 2013
Europe Ireland, 2011
United States Illinois, 2009
United States Sweden, 2007
United States Indiana, 2005
Europe Sweden, 2003
United States Minnesota, 2002
Europe Scotland, 2000
United States Ohio, 1998
United States Wales, 1996
United States West Virginia, 1994
Europe Scotland, 1992
United States Florida, 1990