Monday, April 4, 2011

50,000 For Scottish open at Castle Stuart?

Organisers of a showpiece golf event are confident tens of thousands of fans will head to the Highlands to watch stars such as Padraig Harrington and Phil Mickelson.

They revealed last night that they were on course to sell up to 50,000 tickets for the Barclays Scottish Open, which is being held for the first time at Castle Stuart Golf Links, near Ardersier, in July.

Peter Adams, director of international championships for the European Tour, said he was “really pleased” with ticket sales after making a leap of faith in signing up to stage the event for three years on unknown turf in the north.

If the interest in sales continues, he and his team expect to be welcoming between 40,000 and 50,000 spectators over the course of the four-day tournament, which is being supported by the Press and Journal.

He said: “We are just so pleased with the response – there is such a sense of goodwill. The response has been tremendous and we are delighted and grateful.

“There was certainly an element of risk in bringing the tournament away from Loch Lomond, which has a denser population. The Highlands haven’t seen so many international sporting events and we were kind of watching to see what the response would be.

“I think the response from the community of Inverness and farther afield has lived up to all of our expectations and there is a sense of excitement.

“This is a Scottish event and so the majority of the audience is going to come from Scotland, but we are hoping we will attract spectators from abroad as well.”

Discounted early-bird tickets for the tournament, which will run from July 7 to 10, are available until April 10.

Adult open day tickets cost £25, or £15 for the over-60s. Prices will rise to £30 and £20 respectively for tickets purchased on the day. Tickets for the full tournament, including the practice and pro-am day, on July 6, can be purchased now for £55, increasing to £75 at the gate. The same tickets are available for over-60s for £35 or £60 on the gate. Tickets for the practice day only cost £6 now or £10 on the day.

Tourism chiefs are predicting a huge boost for the Highlands as an estimated 6,500 visiting golf fans seek accommodation at local hotels and B&Bs. Mr Adams said: “We are hoping, as the 2011 Masters tournament begins this week, that golf will be on people’s minds and we will get even more interest.

“If people want to come, it is well worth committing now if you can. It would also be a good idea for people to make their arrangements if they require accommodation.”

This year’s tournament has attracted players at the top of their game, including Scotland’s golf champions Martin Laird and Aberdonian Paul Lawrie.

The 2010 US Open champion, Graeme McDowell, and last year’s Scottish Open winner, Edoardo Molinari, are also due to take part.

Organisers have not ruled out the possibility of an appearance from arguably the best-known player in the world, Tiger Woods, who usually plays in Ireland during the week of the Scottish Open, in preparation for the British Open a week later.

Mr Adams said: “We would love it if he did come but we have not heard anything. I am not saying ‘No, he’s not coming’, but Tiger normally plays golf in Ireland during the week before the British Open and he could change his mind.”

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