Thursday, 10 October 2013



I can’t make up my mind which was worse: the sight of Scotland’s First Minister – minus shades and pink beret, it should be stressed – shamelessly high-jacking the Ryder Cup for political ends or the cast of dozens of public relations gurus turning the grand pile that is Gleneagles Hotel into a scene resembling Sauchiehall Street on the morning of the Boxing Day sales.

Not even the 101 Dalmatians could have caused quite such a stir as the rich and famous weaved their way through the madding crowd in an effort to check in before, I suspect, giving careful consideration to checking straight back out.

Most of us are by now all too familiar with what Alex Salmond is about. Less clear, in my mind at least, is the role of the P.R. – if indeed the majority actually serve a useful purpose.

I shudder at the thought of what the cost to the tax-payer is supporting the Holyrood hordes.

On this occasion marking  a “Year To Go” before the over-hyped, over-inflated, over-the-top Ryder Cup returns to Scotland for the first time for more than 40 years, an independent P.R. agency had also been employed to oversee the operation in addition to the usual suspects.

If their purpose was to keep the assembled media informed and attend to the basic requirements of the scribes – a workplace and a power point – they largely failed in their task.

They same cannot be said of the European Tour’s media department. That handful of efficient souls were, as always, on the ball.

Just as well. Otherwise Tom Watson, the bemused and bewildered American Ryder Cup captain might well have turned on his heels and headed straight back out of town on the specially commissioned Choo-Choo that delivered him to a waking hell of press briefings, stage shows and glad-handing.

The last time the links legend captained a Ryder Cup team – in 1993 – it was just a game.

Regrettably, in the years since the biennial match has grown into an ugly monster of commercialism and a sporting event of exaggerated importance.

Sure, as sporting occasions go, the Ryder Cup is up there with the best of them. But do we really need to turn a three-day event every 24 months into a circus?

With apologies to a valued colleague for stealing his line, next year’s match is being played on the fourth best course in Auchterarder!

But money is always the game changer and no matter how hard the First Minister endeavours to highjack the Ryder Cup, he will ultimately play second fiddle to commercialism and the tens of millions of pounds the event generates.

But at least we are assured of one thing, Europe and the United States have chosen wisely in appointing Paul McGinley and Tom Watson to captain the respective teams.

Both are articulate, knowledgeable and gracious with a rare awareness of the need to have the world’s media onboard.

They will also ensure that the event is conducted in a true sporting manner.

Personally, I am already relishing the sight of 24 golfing Gladiators slugging it out in the mist and rain of late September in the Glen of Eagles.

No matter that the decision-makers could hardly have chosen a more inhospitable venue, given that even on a summer’s day it can feel like winter in that part of rural Perthshire, for one week at least, Hollywood is coming to Gleneagles in even larger numbers than the usual A-list of celebrities who regularly “slum it” in five star luxury.

Regrettably, Holyrood is coming as well.

But, with luck, we won’t notice the unimportant important people.

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