Category: Scotland


June 28, 2013

Citing Muirfield's all-male policies, Scottish leader says he'll steer clear of the Open

Posted at 12:42 PM by Josh Sens

Muirfield-clubhouse_640

The clubhouse and 18th green at Muirfield, host of this year's British Open. (Ross Kinnaird/Getty)

A decade ago, we had Martha Burk against the boys at Augusta.

This time around, we’ve got Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond against the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.

Different countries. Different characters.

Similar conflict at the core.

With the 2013 British Open on its way to Muirfield next month, Salmond announced this week that he would not attend the event, a decision linked to Muirfield’s all-male membership rules.

Unlike Burk at the Masters, Salmond, an avid golfer, insisted that he is not boycotting the event.

But you know how that goes: it depends on what your definition of “is” is.

In an interview with the Scottish news agency, Forth News, Salmond said that golf’s future in the country “must be based on equality and access for all.”

He added that the R&A should have “a good think” about staging an Open at a venue with no women in its membership ranks.

“I don’t think it helps the game to have the suggestion of a bias against women and the greatest tournament on the planet played on arguably the greatest links golf course should have the impression that ladies, women should be second-class citizens.”

In addition to Muirfield, two others clubs in the British Open rota----Royal Troon and Royal St. George’s---have no women members (the R&A itself, which makes its home in St. Andrews, is also an all-male organization).

R&A chief executive Peter Dawson has gone on record saying that British golf’s governing body would never issue an ultimatum requiring an Open venue to change its membership rules.

“There is nothing wrong under UK legistlation with a single-sex club as long as they behave under the equality act as far as guest access is concerned, which Muirfield certainly does,” Dawson said. He said that forcing a club to change its membership polices would amount to “bullying” and that the R&A would have no part in that.

The Salmond administration has adopted a different stance.

In a recent letter to Muirfield, Salmond and his First Sports Minister, Shona Robinson, objected to the club’s ban on female members.

The letter reportedly pointed to the example of Augusta National, which admitted its first female members last year, and asked why Muirfield couldn’t follow suit.

Like Burk in the midst of her Augusta protests, Salmond has taken heat for speaking out.

Jackson Carlaw, deputy of the opposition Tory party, is among those to criticize the First Minister, claiming that Salmond’s actions are driven by politics, not principles.

“We know Alex Salmond polls badly with women and if this is an alarmingly naked grab for female approval I’m sure it will be spurned.”

Pushing the naked imagery an unflattering step further, Carlaw added: “At least we will all be spared more photographs of him sprawled like a beached whale beside the Muirfield greens.”

Well, at least it’s not getting personal.

Feisty broadsides notwithstanding, it will be interesting to see how the conversation plays out.

Former Masters chairman Hootie Johnson always insisted that Augusta would make changes on its own time frame, and not “at the point of a bayonet.” That time frame turned out to be about a decade. In the interim, Augusta lost two members to resignation over its male-only policy: then-U.S. Treasury Secretary nominee John Snow, and former CBS chief executive Thomas Wyman.

Augusta may not have responded to a bayonet, but it seems clear that the club was prodded along.

Will the same eventually apply to Muirfield?

For all the traits they share (prestigious reputations; rich histories of exclusion), Augusta and Muirfield are different animals, inhabitants of different sporting cultures. Augusta finds itself in the spotlight every year, while Muirfield takes its turn roughly once a decade, a tweedy time capsule left largely by the public to its own throwback ways until its turn in the Open rota rolls around.

Whoever hoists the claret jug in 2013 will do so at a club that admits no female members.

What’s your wager? Will that be the case the next time the Open comes to Muirfield’s gated grounds?

November 19, 2012

Truth & Rumors: Trump announces plans for second course in Scotland

Posted at 10:09 AM by Mark Dee

Trump_openingMartin Hawtree -- you're hired. Again.

That was Donald Trump's message on Monday, when the BBC reported that Trump will begin development on a second Scotland course at Trump International Links in Aberdeenshire.

Hawtree designed the first course, which was unveiled to acclaim earlier this year. He'll head the second project, which is will be built south of the original track.

Of course, all of this comes amid Trump's contentious battle with…much of Scotland. And, it runs contrary to his claim that he would halt development on the site until the government stopped construction of a £230 million ($365 million) wind farm on the coast.

According to the BBC report, Trump did continue to stress the threat the windmills present in announcing the new course. He contends that they will ruin ocean views from the property.

RELATED: Travelin' Joe on Trump Scotland
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[Photo: Donald Trump at the official opening of Trump International Links in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, in July 2012. Getty Images.]

October 09, 2012

Truth & Rumors: Leaked e-mail stirs more trouble for Trump in Scotland

Posted at 12:17 PM by Mark Dee

The complicated, controversial genesis of Trump International Golf Links remains a hot-button political issue in Scotland. That's not going away.

But, while the back-room stuff still isn't entirely clear, the nature of the relationship between Trump and Alex Salmond, Scotland's first minister, may be coming into focus, one leaked e-mail at a time.

A report published by Magnus Gardham of the Herald Scotland says that, in the months after Salmond's government approved Trump's £1 billion project, the first minister asked Trump to support the government's much-criticized decision to release the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi.

Trump reportedly refused, and the exchanged stayed hushed for the better part of three years.

Now, with Trump battling the Salmond government to call off plans for a wind farm off the coast from his course, the e-mails have been leaked. Gardham, the story's author, does not mention the source of the leak.

Until a final decision on the wind farm is reached, Trump has reportedly suspended construction on the five-star hotel and luxury vacation homes he initially intended to build on the site.

The first 18, though, opened earlier this year to much celebration, and immediate praise from the golfing press. The political machinations that led to its construction, however, are still the source of much debate among activists and the Scottish press.

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October 17, 2011

Truth & Rumors: Long Island course plays host to jewelry heist

Posted at 12:37 PM by Mick Rouse

After stealing a stash of Rolexes from a Long Island jewelry store and crashing a Cadillac Escalade into a guardrail on the Long Island Expressway, three of the five armed thieves took their getaway chase to the Village Club of Lake Success. Selim Algar and Kieran Crowley have the story:

As one golfer was preparing his fifth hole tee shot, one of the desperados suddenly hopped into his golf cart. 

The carjacker coyly delivered the line “enjoy the show” before puttering away, according to witness George Shores.

Unwilling to let the thug get away with his clubs, the golfer flagged down another hacker who was cruising by—and the duffers set off on a low-speed chase across the links.

The cart-thief eventually made his escape after abandoning the golf cart near the fifth hole where he hopped a fence. His two accomplices were not so lucky.

The golfers then watched in disbelief as another man in a white tank top suddenly emerged from the aptly named Lake Surprise at the course’s periphery.

“We asked the guy what he was doing,” Shores said. “He told us he was going for a swim and then took off running.”

The golfers gave chase to the second culprit who was apprehended by police shortly thereafter.

“There were three cartfuls of people chasing him at one point,” Shores said.

The third burglar was caught by police near the eighth hole and two others were arrested in Queens. Witness Shores said he was happy to aid in the capture of the thieves, but the timing of the incident was less than ideal.

“I was two under at the time,” he said.

Documentary on Trump's Scotland golf course wins award

Scottish filmmaker Anthony Baxter's documentary "You've Been Trumped" made its stateside premier over the weekend at the Hamptons International Film Festival, where it received the Victor Rabinowitz and Joanne Grant Award for Special Justice. According to IMDB, the documentary chronicles “a group of proud Scottish homeowners” as they “take on celebrity tycoon Donald Trump as he buys up one of Scotland’s last wilderness areas to a build a golf resort." 

Jeff Quinney critical of Luke Donald and Webb Simpson's Disney money grab

The majority of the golf world has reveled in the Luke Donald and Webb Simpson race for the PGA Tour money title, which will be decided at the season-ending Children's Miracle Network Classic in Orlando this week. However, tour player Jeff Quinney, speaking from the 204th spot on the money list, is less than thrilled with the inclusion of the world's No. 1 and No. 12 at Disney, tweeting his displeasure:

“5 million is not enough? Do you guys really need to play?”

Tweet of the Day

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July 07, 2010

Truth and Rumors: Watson understands Tiger's struggles, Phil is/isn't eyeing #1 and Michelle Wie brushes up on her Greek

Posted at 11:36 AM by Steve Beslow

Watson gets in Tiger's head...again
As well as Tom Watson has played in the past year, it's not surprising that his name is mentioned so often with Tiger Woods'. What is surprising is why. Watson has not been shy about criticizing Tiger since news of his various affairs leaked out, and if some people (read: every person who's been anywhere near the two of them) can be believed, Woods' feelings towards Watson range somewhere between icy and homicidal. So it's no shock that Reuters reporter Tom Pilcher would ask Watson about Tiger's recent struggles, and it's even less shocking that Watson would say exactly what he thinks:

Tom Watson says it is only natural that Tiger Woods's fall from grace is so visibly affecting his game.

"His life is a lot more complicated now. He doesn't hear that absolute silence when he's playing, and he mentioned when he's playing his best he hears nothing," the American eight-times major winner told a news conference on Wednesday.

"I'm sure there are things going on in his mind that make it very difficult for him."

World number one Woods confessed to a string of extra-marital affairs earlier this year.

His preparations for the British Open next week at St. Andrews, where he won the Claret Jug in 2000 and 2005, have come under scrutiny, with the American flying home to be with his children instead of having his usual prolonged stay in Europe.

Watson said Woods's busy flying schedule was not a problem ahead of the year's third major.

"I used to come over five or six days early, simply because I wanted to get the time change. That was the first thing. I don't think what he is doing is risky," Watson said at Sunningdale Golf Club where he was launching his instructional DVD on golf.

"That kid was so much better than the rest when he came out and he evolved into a golf swing that really worked for him. He has some difficulties with the golf swing now,"

In all fairness, these comments are pretty tame and don't really claim to give too much insight into Tiger's mindset, but I'm just surprised that, after all the headlines he's caused, Watson is still willing to guess what's going on in Woods' head. As an elder statesman, Old Tom clearly has more leeway with both the media and other Tour players in terms of speaking out of turn, but there's got to be a breaking point for Tiger, and a couple of jabs from Woods might be all it takes for people to remember the odd circumstances around Watson's own marital disharmony.

Phil Mickelson doesn't care about being #1, is a bad liar
Lefty has had several opportunities this season to wrest control of the top spot in golf away from Tiger Woods, but so far he hasn't been able to take advantage. With Tiger spending time with his kids in Florida, Phil's got another chance this week at the Scottish Open, but he tells the BBC's Clive Lindsay that being #1 is not really on his mind.

Phil Mickelson is concentrating on winning the Scottish Open rather than the prospect of taking over from Tiger Woods as world number one. "It would be cool, but it's not something I'm thinking about," said the American, who can leapfrog Woods with a second place finish at Loch Lomond.

"I'm just trying to get my game sharp. It would be cool more because I've come so close to winning this tournament and it would mean a lot to me to break through and finally win."

Asked what his thoughts would be if he did become number one to end 250 weeks in second spot, Mickelson said: "I have a good answer for that, but let's not talk hypotheticals and I will tell you on Sunday if it happens."

Mickelson goes on to talk about links golf and how much he'd like to win at St. Andrews, but Phil's shot at the top of the rankings takes top billing for me. There's plenty of reason to believe that this is as bad as Tiger will ever struggle with his game, so it stands to reason that this is the best chance the southpaw is ever going to have to be the number one player in the world. Phil can hem and haw about not caring, but, while he has many great qualities, modesty is not one of them (as his nickname might suggest).

Mickelson even admits he already has "a good answer" for how he'll feel if he earns the top spot, so clearly it's on his mind no matter how much he insists otherwise. Unfortunately for Phil, we're already past the midpoint of the PGA season, so even if he goes the rest of the year as the No. 1 player, Tiger's already locked up his 13th straight Mark H. McCormack Award.

At least we know she's not pledging "Eye Phelta Thi"
A funny moment out at the U.S. Women's Open yesterday, when Michelle Wie was asked (by what has to be the most smarmy moderator in history) whether or not she was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Stanford. Wie's reply suggests that she is not a member, and likely never will be:

MODERATOR: Welcome to the 2010 US Open Women's Open Championship, by the way. Our first guess this morning is Michelle Wie. I was thinking about it, and when Michelle won the LPGA tournament that she won earlier in the year, I was thinking I believe you were the only college student to ever win a tournament in the LPGA Tour. That's another little feather in your cap. Just tell us a little bit. You won a tournament now. You're still in college. Are you a Phi Beta Kappa yet?

MICHELLE WIE: No sorority for me yet, but it's been fun. It's been a lot of fun. You know, it's great, but I want to do better this year, and I just want to keep doing better and better. College is fun; it's a lot of hard work. It all pays off in the end.

I wish this transcript came with video, because there's nothing a room full of reporters enjoys more than an international star looking foolish (or, in this case, just a little ditsy). In Wie's defense, she's got plenty of other stuff to worry about and isn't necessarily plugged into the most academic cliques on campus (although I hear Brook Lopez's hairstyle was inspired by Albert Einstein), and it's not like PBK is the most visible group on campus. I'll admit that I didn't know what Phi Beta Kappa was until my senior year of college, when my girlfriend was suddenly invited to join. What I could never figure out is why they always met at 11 PM on Saturday night.

November 24, 2009

Trump calls course opponent 'village idiot'

Posted at 10:24 AM by Alan Bastable

Donald Trump Jr. — who is overseeing his famous father’s pledge to deliver “the greatest golf course in the world” on the windswept shorelines of Aberdeenshire, Scotland — recently said that he “wasn’t worried in the slightest” about the threat of legal action from disgruntled locals slowing the course’s progress. In as little as 18 months, DTJ said, the links could be open for play.

 

If only his old man were so cheerful.

 

The Donald last night unleashed a startlingly bruising attack on Michael Forbes, a salmon fisherman and quarryman who has made a stand against the resort. The diatribe, released in a written statement from Trump’s New York office, came after Forbes’s elderly mother Molly filed paperwork to prevent the local council from seizing the land occupied by her caravan, which is parked next to her son’s house.

 

Trump, who claims Molly is being exploited to further her son's "personal vendetta" against him, has never been one to temper his opinions but even by his jarringly forthright standards, this rant cut deep.

 

Trump dismissed Michael Forbes as “the local village idiot” who "has always been dirty, sloppy and unkempt in his personal appearance and demeanor.

 

"His property is a disgusting blight on the community and an environmental hazard, with leaking oil containers, rusted shacks and abandoned vehicles dumped everywhere. It is a very poor image and representation for the world to see of Scotland.

 

“While he is a terrible representative for Scotland, whenever the cameras are rolling, he parades in front of the press looking groomed and wearing a kilt — he truly enjoys the attention that he would never have received without Donald Trump. In a recent television interview that was broadcast in the United States, Mr. Forbes made Scotland and its people look terrible. He is a loser who is seriously damaging the image of both Aberdeenshire and his great country.

 

“Instead of wasting the court’s resources, he should spend time cleaning up his land so it does not look like a slum — and a low-level slum at that. Perhaps he thinks that by creating an eyesore I will pay more for his land.”

 

According to The Guardian newspaper:

Trump's attack has significantly increased the likelihood that he will ask Aberdeenshire council to use its powers to compulsorily purchase Forbes's 23 acres of land, outbuildings and home, and the homes of two other residents, to enable him to demolish every property within the resort's boundaries unnecessary to his development.

 

Molly Forbes said: "I never expected in my life to face eviction from my home, let alone for a golf course. This is not a battle I would ever have sought, but Mr Trump and Aberdeenshire council should know that I will never give up, and I urge them to think again."

 

This could get ugly. Well, uglier.

 

 

July 16, 2008

Blowy Birkdale Could Be a Repeat of '98

Posted at 2:13 PM by John Garrity

SOUTHPORT, England - Reading Cameron Morfit’s lighthearted take on the weather at Royal Birkdale, I’m having one of those “déjà vu all over again” moments. Only it isn’t a brain cloud. It’s my very real memory of the conditions that prevailed here during the 1998 Open Championship, won by Mark O’Meara.

Here’s what I wrote about that week’s weather in my story for SI:

“The weather in the British Isles has been on the wet and windy side this year. England’s northwest shore is so soggy that hedgerows are spilling onto pavements and articles left outdoors turn overnight into chia pets. The days leading up to the Open Championship were notable for squally rain and winds that whistled in the flag rigs above the grandstands at Royal Birkdale. The rough was so lush that Tom Lehman lost six balls in eight holes in a Monday practice round, and so tall that you could almost hide a Texan in it -- specifically the defending champion from Dallas, Justin Leonard, who finished 17 over for the tournament.

“In normal conditions Royal Birkdale is something like the formal maze in a British garden. Its fairways are low and the wild dunes are high, giving players the sense that they are making their way through an artfully-contrived puzzle.  Which, of course, they are. But in last week’s rain and wind, the par-70 links played more like a par-77 lynx, clawing the players badly. The scores on Saturday, when the wind never dipped below 25 miles an hour, were the worst. Leonard shot a 12-over-par 82, Janzen shot 80, Phil Mickelson needed 85, and Nick Price, a stroke out of the lead after two rounds, signed for an 82 and retired to the clubhouse looking pale and worn.”

I quote these passages merely to give you an idea of what to expect from Birkdale ’08. And if you’re betting on the Open, be leery of any player wearing a cap with a brim.

(The rest of my reportage from the ’98 Open can be found in the SI Vault. For other climactically-impacted majors, see the collected writings of Herbert Warren Whatshisname.)

April 07, 2008

John Stark, RIP

Posted at 8:52 AM by Michael Bamberger

John Stark, a great Scottish teacher, died on Saturday. I can't tell you his age. He was in his early 60s when I took a series of lessons from him over the course of the summer of '91. He was still in his early 60s when I last saw him, three or four years ago. People who have known him all his life say he was in his early 60s as a young man, playing in the British Open at Carnoustie in '53, the one Hogan won. The point is, the man was ageless.

I got the word from his former son-in-law, David Murchie, the head professional at Crief Golf Club, in Scotland. David's marriage to John's daughter did not work out, but golf kept the men together for many decades.

You know the cliche of the Scottish golfing man: all tweedy and trim and austere. Stark favored bright red polyester pants, cheap cigars and gold fillings. He taught by asking questions. Like, "Whatarya tryin' to git from the gahm?" He did not use the word laddie.

He taught me, at first, with mealy balls and a hickory-shafted club. He'd accept no money from me, as he was already rich, although not in the conventional sense. Eventually, he took me to a secret place (and course) called Auchnafree, not far from Crieff, where he was professional emeritus. There was a primitive six-hole golf course at Auchnafree, tended by sheep. Stark drank water from the river that ran through the Auchnafree glen. His swing looked downright regal in that setting, his bright red pants against the lush green grass.

Saturday was cool and blowy in Philadelphia, where I live. I went out to the range here for the first time all year with a new bag--simple, black, two pockets--kindly sent to me from a man in Oregon I don't know. I noticed for the first time there was a word, stitched in black, on the bag: Auchnafree. I don't think the man in Oregon has been there, but he knows about it. Different scale, but it's sort of like Kinsella's baseball diamond in "Field of Dreams," at least to me.  It's pure.

He loved watching Hogan, Palmer, Seve, Tiger-- any golfer who felt the course.

One of Stark's  phrases was, "Go on, now." He'd ask you to make a swing, or open a gate on a dirt road, and then he'd say, "Go on, now." Or, "On you go."

One way or another, all the good teachers say that, right?





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