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Muirfield joins race for 2009 Ryder Cup

Muirfield, the club which hosted the Ryder Cup on the one previous occasion when the match with the Americans was held in Scotland in 1973, has thrown its hat into the ring again to stage the 2009 contest.

With St Andrews, Turnberry, Carnoustie, Loch Lomond and Gleneagles already on board as official contenders to provide the venue, the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers declared their candidacy last week in a bid document which also drew the support of various tourism and enterprise agencies in the Lothians.

All bids for the 2009 match have to be lodged with the Ryder Cup committee by the end of this month and Muirfield declared its interest at the 11th hour. The involvement of arguably the most testing and beautiful links course in world golf adds another sprinkling of glitter to a Scottish bid which is second to none in terms of quality courses.

Wales, the North-east of England and Sweden are also involved in the quest to host the Ryder Cup nine years from now. The Welsh bid is seen by many as the most serious rival to Scotland, with Celtic Manor backed by huge financial resources.

If money is no object in the valleys - the Welsh impressed officials with the manner in which they staged the recent PGA Cup match - the Scottish bid is also understood to be commercially sound.

A press conference at St Andrews on Thursday during the Alfred Dunhill Cup is expected to deliver details about a strategy for developing the game in Scotland.

With European Tour events scheduled for Loch Lomond, Gleneagles and St Andrews next season, Scotland’s Ryder Cup bid looks to be gathering momentum. All concerned in this neck of the woods, mind you, appreciate they’ve not reached the winner’s enclosure yet.

As far as Muirfield’s interest is concerned, perhaps the one major stumbling block to holding the Ryder Cup at the East Lothian course is the club’s membership policy.

Only men are allowed to join the world’s oldest golf club. That antiquated view of women golfers, one would guess, is unlikely to sit well with a government-backed initiative.

On the other hand, no Scottish club has more to offer in the way of tradition than Muirfield. The Honourable Company first played golf on Leith Links in 1744 and have been running championships ever since.

Muirfield has welcomed the world to 14 Opens but a reputation for lofty isolationism was fostered by a former secretary, Paddy Hanmer. The former navy captain was known to be icy in the company of visitors.

When four Americans, who had booked a year in advance, turned up on a day when wind and driving rain sent the seagulls in search of shelter, Hanmer barked: "Start at the tenth - we don’t want you getting in the way of the members."

A decision on the host country for 2009 is expected to be announced in the New Year, with the successful course due to be named during the 2001 Ryder Cup match at the Belfry.

Sandy Jones, the chief executive of the PGA and an observer at the Solheim Cup over the weekend, indicated that the calibre of all the bids was high.

"Celtic Manor did a very good job of putting on the PGA Cup and what we can say about them is that they’ve met every challenge which has been put in front of them so far," he said.

"We’ve also been very impressed with the bid from the North-east of England and the enthusiasm and seriousness of the Swedish bid. All the interested parties, including Scotland, are showing both innovation and commitment to the game.

"After what happened at Brookline, there was a feeling that the Ryder Cup was bad for golf. We want to change that perception. Our aim is to persuade people that the Ryder Cup can be very good for the game.

"That’s why the decision on who gets the match in 2009 has to be viewed as a catalyst for growth - a chance to focus on golf and an opportunity to develop the game."


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