Open grants to clubs

GOLF clubs in the North East are being offered cash help by the organisers of The Open Championship to get to Turnberry in July.

GOLF clubs in the North East are being offered cash help by the organisers of The Open Championship to get to Turnberry in July.

The Royal and Ancient Club, who run The Open, are hoping to boost attendances at the July 16-19 event, in which Ireland's Padraig Harrington will go for a third successive title and Tiger Woods returns to the championship after a knee operation.

"We are encouraging clubs to bring members and the R&A will pay £250 towards the cost of a coach," said Director of Championships David Hill.

"In this period of recession, we're trying to reach out to clubs and we will be contacting them with details. We're asking them to bring 30 people.

"We're also conscious that with the success of golf in Ireland, we're anticipating a lot of people coming over and there will be a coach service from the ferry terminals.

"Corporate hospitality is 15%-20% down in line with all UK sporting events - everybody has suffered from that a little bit and it reflects the world we are currently in.

"But we're not hugely concerned. We are pretty upbeat and we are confident that there is huge interest and that we should get to the same figures we had when The Open was last here in 1994.

" While Opens at St Andrews always prove the most popular and attract in excess of 200,000 people, Turnberry's attendance 15 years ago was 115,000.

A daily ticket will cost £55 and Hill added: "When you compare that to other sporting events, I believe it's fantastic value.

" There's been drop-off in corporate sponsorship, including long-term sponsors Royal Bank of Scotland, but they remain involved and R & A chief executive, Northumberland's Peter Dawson, said: "They have been supporters of The Open for a long, long time.

"I know they are going to continue in sports sponsorship and we very much hope The Open will remain part of that portfolio.

" Meanwhile, Woods - and the rest of the world's top players - will find themselves subjected to drug-testing for the first time at this year's event.

The championship returns to a new-look Turnberry course stretched to more than 7,200 yards after a gap of 15 years and there will be random drugs testing of players, as there has been for the last year on the European and USPGA Tours.

Dawson said: "The players are already well-accustomed to drug testing and will look at this as just another week on tour.

"We will be using the European Tour's anti-doping procedures which are well tried and tested."


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