The Scottish Government is well on its way to reaching its target of 150 Community Sports Hubs across 32 Local Authorities by 2016. Their development is supported with £1.5 million per year.
Shona Robison, Scotland’s Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport, made the announcement at Gleneagles during this year’s Johnnie Walker Championship, alongside a top table which included European Ryder Cup Director Richard Hills and Blairgowrie Golf Club Captain Allan McKay.
Less than half an hour from The Gleneagles Hotel where The 40th Ryder Cup will take place from September 26-28, 2014, Blairgowrie’s stunning Rosemount Course will now, earlier that month, showcase the best in junior golfing talent from both sides of the Atlantic.
It will mark a return to Perthshire for the match which was staged at The Gleneagles Hotel itself in 2010 and continue the Scottish influence on the biennial contest which sees former Amateur Champion and Walker Cup player Stuart Wilson of Forfar take on the role of captain for this year’s match at Olympia Fields in Illinois from September 24-25, as well as for the 2014 contest.
￼Founded in 1889, the original Rosemount Course at Blairgowrie was designed by Dr Alister McKenzie, the renowned architect of many golfing masterpieces around the world including Augusta National in Georgia, home since 1934 to the Masters Tournament.
Redesigned in 1930 by James Braid, Rosemount has played host to a number of prestigious professional and amateur tournaments over the years and was the scene of Greg Norman’s first European Tour victory in the 1977 Martini International tournament where the then 22 year old Australian held off the challenge of South African Simon Hobday and England’s Howard Clark, now a commentator on Sky Sports, to win by three shots thanks to a fine closing 66.
Rosemount’s forgiving fairways are compensated with large and undulating greens providing a testing but rewarding challenge and Club Captain Allan McKay admitted that everyone associated with Blairgowrie Golf Club was already looking forward to welcoming the juniors.
“It is an honour for the Club to be selected to host such a prestigious event,” he said. “We look forward to welcoming the most talented junior golfers from Europe and the USA to our championship course and I know they will enjoy the spectacle of the challenge posed by The Ryder Cup format.”
Aside from the 24 competitors, Blairgowrie Golf Club can also look forward to welcoming a host of schoolchildren who have been inspired to take up the game by Scotland’s Junior Golf Development Programme, ClubGolf, which was initiated by Ryder Cup Europe in 2003 as a key component of Scotland's successful Ryder Cup bid and which has become part of the Scottish Government’s pledge to introduce every child in Scotland to golf by the age of nine.
Around a thousand schoolchildren from the length and breadth of Scotland attended The 2010 Ryder Cup Junior Match at Gleneagles, creating not only a superb atmosphere for the contest itself but also helping to showcase the ClubGolf initiative.
To date, almost 220,000 children in Scotland have been introduced to the game through ClubGolf, aided by the support of SportScotland’s Active Schools Network, primary schools across the country, and all 32 of Scotland’s local authorities.
Sport Minister Shona Robison said: “Everyone involved can see how the ClubGolf programme is inspiring youngsters to take up golf and I’m optimistic that we can see the fruits of this with success in major competitions in years to come.
“The last Ryder Cup Junior Match at Gleneagles was a memorable occasion and I’m delighted that this event will be returning to Scotland in 2014, which promises to be a fantastic year of sport for Scotland on the world stage with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Ryder Cup.
Richard Hills said: “The Ryder Cup Junior Match never fails to emphasise the depth of young, emerging golfing talent, and it is gratifying to see the enthusiasm of the youngsters representing their continents and to watch many of them develop into world-class players.
“We were delighted with the success of the 2010 match at Gleneagles and believe that the trip to Blairgowrie Golf Club for the 2014 Ryder Cup Junior Match will again highlight the quality of a new generation of golfers.”
The Ryder Cup Junior Match, which was first formally played in 1997 following an exhibition match in 1995, is organised jointly by The European Tour and the PGA of America. The biennial contest is designed to continue to build international friendships between top junior golfers from both continents and features 12-strong teams consisting of two under 16 boys, two under 16 girls, four under 18 girls and four under 18 boys.
The first match, at the Alcaidesa Links Golf Course in Cadiz, Spain, was won by America 9-7 before Europe levelled the series in 1999 at the Country Club of New Seabury in Cape Cod, Massachusetts with a 10½ - 1½ victory.
That heralded a period of European dominance over the next two contests with blue figures reigning supreme on the scoreboards at The K Club in Ireland in 2002 (9½-2½) and at the Westfield Group Country Club in Ohio in 2004 (8½-3½). The 2006 match at The Celtic Manor Resortin Wales was tied 6-6, before the Americans won convincingly 22-2 at The Club at Olde Stone in Kentucky in 2008.
At The Gleneagles Hotel two years ago, it was again the Stars and Stripes flying high as the United States won 13 ½ - 10 ½, meaning the host nation will go into this year’s contest at Olympia Fields in Illinois as defending champions, a statistic European captain Stuart Wilson and his assistant captain Kristin Gunhildrud will hope to put right.
The Ryder Cup Junior Match has successfully launched the professional careers of several players. Spaniard Sergio Garcia played in the 1995 exhibition match and four years later was part of the full European Team at The Country Club in Brookline – the first of his five Ryder Cup appearances to date - while Suzann Pettersen played in the Junior Ryder Cup in 1997 and 1999 before becoming Norway’s top female golfer and taking part in six Solheim Cups.
The 2011 US Open Champion Rory McIlroy was on the victorious 2004 team, while America’s Hunter Mahan, having been on the 1999 team, has progressed to become a five-time US PGA Tour winner and will make his third consecutive Ryder Cup appearance for the United States at Medinah next month.
Others to graduate to the top are England’s Oliver Fisher, who played in the 2004 Junior Ryder Cup and who won the 2011 Czech Open on The European Tour and Italy’s Matteo Manassero, who played in 2008 and now has two European Tour titles to his name as well as being named The Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year on The European Tour in 2010. From the girls’ side, Carlota Cignada from Spain and Scotland’s Carly Booth both competed before going on to forge careers on the Ladies European Tour, while LPGA professionals Alexis Thomson and Vicky Hurst also took part.