Friday, May 07, 2010

Scottish Open organisers confident Loch Lomond

will recover in time from effects of severe winter

By Martin Dempster
Organisers of the Barclays Scottish Open are confident the event will go ahead as planned at Loch Lomond in just over two months despite the severe winter weather forcing a decision to dig up four greens and also make its members play on 14 temporary greens throughout this month.
"This is an unfortunate situation but is a consequence of the serious damage wrought by the most severe winter witnessed in the area for 30 years," said a statement issued yesterday by Loch Lomond Golf Club to The Scotsman.
"The situation has also been exacerbated by cool spring temperatures which have delayed the start of the growing season. The greens at the third, ninth, 11th and 17th holes have had to be re-turfed due to the damage, which experts called in by the club are attributing to the severe weather which resulted in much of the Loch Lomond course being covered by 50mm of ice for a period of 25 consecutive days between late December and late January.
"The Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) confirmed that many courses in the west of Scotland had suffered in a similar manner and that courses like Loch Lomond which have predominantly annual meadow grass greens were particularly badly affected," added the statement."
"Loch Lomond sought advice from the STRI on how to alleviate the damage and together they implemented a recovery programme which saw four greens re-turfed and the other 14 receiving extensive treatment. This recovery programme has achieved considerable success with all greens seeing an increase in turf cover."
The Scottish Open is due to be played from July 8 to 11, with Masters champion Phil Mickelson heading the field."The club is in direct communication with The European Tour," said the statement. "The current situation is not expected to impinge on the playing of the Barclays Scottish Open."
Scottish Open championship director Peter Adams said: "The European Tour has been in constant communication with Loch Lomond Golf Club, our joint venture partners in The Barclays Scottish Open, ever since the issues with the greens came to light. We have made regular visits to the course with our agronomy experts and we receive weekly updates.
"We are not contemplating a contingency. We do face agronomy issues at other events from time to time but when these occur we work hard with the venue and all relevant parties associated with the tournament to resolve the issues arising."
Nevertheless, the situation will be of some concern for George O'Grady, the European Tour's chief executive, as well as Barclays, the event's sponsor since 2001. Since it hosted its first professional tournament in 1996, Loch Lomond has become one of the favourite venues on the circuit for the world's top players through a combination of its setting and the condition of the course.
The club has spent a lot of money on drainage since it was designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, with particular attention having been paid to the greens, all of which were rebuilt using more than 1,000 truck-loads of sand after the Solheim Cup in 2000.
Members of the Loch Lomond club were informed at the start of May that the temporary greens will be in operation for the whole of the month.
"I'd imagine the European Tour would be nervous about what's happening," said one member, who did not wish to be named, when contacted by The Scotsman. The state of the course isn't good and it would be a tragedy if Loch Lomond lost the Scottish Open.
"The situation with the greens has come at a time when it is believed an announcement is imminent regarding the future of the club, which has been up for sale for a reported £100 million since 2008 after being put into the hands of a US firm of business recovery specialists amid financial problems.
The move came after Lyle Anderson, the club's Arizona-based owner, failed to re-negotiate his debts with the Bank of Scotland. Anderson, who is still the beneficial owner, is believed to be trying to put together a rescue plan for all his assets, including Loch Lomond, while it is thought there are separate bids on the table from the management, headed by general manager Niall Flanagan, and a group of the club's members.
When it was first put up for sale, Dubai-based Leisurecorp, the owners of Turnberry, were believed to be interested but last year's collapse of the Middle East economy is likely to rule them out of the running.
Oasis Management Resources, the American-based re-financing company put in control of the club by the bank and charged with the task of finding potential buyers, was contacted by The Scotsman but had failed to respond at time of going to press.
As long as Loch Lomond is operating as a golf club, the European Tour say Barclays are perfectly happy for the Scottish Open to stay there.
Speaking about the club's financial situation earlier this year, Keith Watters, the Tour's chief operating officer, said: "Barclays are contracted through to 2012 and the situation at Loch Lomond doesn't worry them as it is still operating as a golf club."
Last October Loch Lomond reduced its full-time staff by 50 after a decision was made to move from a 12-month operation to a more seasonal one.
+The above article appears in The Scotsman newspaper today.



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