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Women brought into 2009 Ryder Cup bidding

Bringing the Ryder Cup to the home of golf in 2009 will play a significant role in helping to eliminate sexism from the sport, according to Gavin Hastings, who is fronting Scotlandís bid.

After Wales launched their golf development campaign to host the match yesterday with a promise "to sweep away sexism and elitism," Hastings revealed that programmes to improve opportunities for women in golf were already built into Scotlandís candidacy.

The Ladies First initiative, which was introduced in Fife last year with backing from the local tourist board, is due to be rolled out across the country over the next five years.

Tailored to women golfers everywhere and promoted throughout the UK, this scheme gives them an exclusive opportunity to play Fifeís top courses at reasonable rates.

Bearing in mind that Scottish Executive minister Rhona Brankin played such a key role in preparing the bid, it should come as no surprise to learn that Scotlandís submission offers an inclusive vision for the gameís future.

Last year, the best-ever staging of the Solheim Cup took place at Loch Lomond with a Scot captaining the European team and Janice Moodie playing a starring role against the Americans.

"An important part of our bid is the pledge to give every child of nine an opportunity to play the game - and that means every girl as well as boy," added Hastings.

"Iím sure this will help to remove any lingering traces of sexism from the game. Compared to some other countries, Scotland has always taken a less elitist or sexist view of golf. Iím confident that the added spur of the Ryder Cup will give us an opportunity to dismantle any remaining barriers.

"As far as the organisation of the game in Scotland is concerned, bodies such as the Scottish Golf Union and the Scottish Ladies are already working closer together than ever before."

While Hastings was underlining the importance to Scotland of a successful bid for 2009, Tony Lewis, the chairman of the Welsh committee, indicated that talks have begun which could see the Welsh menís and ladiesí unions merge in the future. "The bid [from Wales] goes far beyond a single tournament, huge though the Ryder Cup is," said Lewis.

"The aim is to transform the golfing landscape in Wales, create new facilities and opportunities and sweep away sexism and elitism completely.

"We will work towards these aims anyway, but a successful Ryder Cup bid would act as a catalyst, allowing the game to develop much more rapidly and opening up much greater opportunities for public and private sector funding."

Andrew Morgan, chairman of the WGUís development committee, explained how the menís and womenís unions would work better as a single body. "With the Ryder Cup as the catalyst for change, Wales would like to abolish existing divisions, restrictions and pre-conceptions surrounding the game of golf. We want the golfers of Wales to be girls, boys. women and men," he said.

Morgan added that new facilities had to be at the heart of this plan to increase participation - particularly when the membership of private clubs was already oversubscribed.

"Even when people are in a position to afford membership fees, they often feel intimidated by the elitist image of the game," he added. "That scenario is changing, but we need to accelerate that change. We want to remove these barriers. We can do so with the provision of more public pay-and-play courses that are available to local communities."

At a conference attended by the Welsh First Minister Rhodri Morgan, Lewis said that a successful Welsh bid was vital for the development of the game in the principality.

"Wales wants the opportunity to reach the level achieved in Scotland, Ireland, England and the other top golfing nations."

As well as Scotland and Wales, the north-east of England is bidding to host the match in 2009. All three countries are expected to make presentations shortly to the Ryder Cup committee with a final decision on the identity of the winner due to be announced in late February or March.

But the successful course wonít be named until the match against the Americans at the Belfry in September.

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