Only locals and key workers in small numbers will be able to see the Trust Golf Scottish Women’s Open on site at Fife’s Dumbarnie Links in August but the championship is about to blossom, believe the new sponsors and organisers.
Due to remaining Covid-19 concerns the tournament organisers have opted not to have even reduced galleries at the much-acclaimed new course between Elie and Leven on August 12-15. A strictly limited number of “invitees” – which will include some Covid key workers but largely consist of locals – will be the only fans on site.
‘We felt we were no ready for that’
“It’s been decided not to open up to spectators as there is a huge risk attached to that,” said Ross Hallett, IMG’s senior vice president of golf events. “There will be a few community spectators who will be invited, but we are not going down the route of opening up the golf course.
“We felt we were not ready for that with all the uncertainty, but we want to have a community element and we are hoping to invite some key workers.”
Neverthless breaking the tie with the Men’s Scottish Open is a significant one under the new lead sponsorship. Trust Golf is the brainchild of Thai physicist and technology innovator Dr Prin Singhanart, who envisages the Scottish Open as a potential women’s major.
‘We feel it can stand on its own two feet’
Under the former sponsors at Women’s Scottish Open was staged at the same venue as the Men’s. The success of the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles in 2019 and the ambitions of the new sponsors convinced partners VisitScotland that the women should go it alone.
“We co-located at a time when we were still growing the women’s game,” said Paul Bush, VisitScotland’s director of events.
“The Solheim Cup was quite an important benchmark for women’s golf in Scotland. We feel it can stand very much on its own two feet.
“It’s lucky for us the event is being held at Dumbarnie Links this year. We are also not getting a normal sponsor here. This is quite a visionary approach to a partnership.
“We’ve already had some initial discussions about how Scotland can work with Thailand as a country, how VisitScotland as a tourism organisation can work with Trust Golf and the wider company set up Dr Prin has.
“I think the fact that the Scottish Government has committed to this event for another five years is a really critical decision. “
‘This is really a special venue’
— Dumbarnie Golf Links (@dumbarniegolf) June 22, 2021
Moving the championship to a course just 13 months removed from opening – and that in the midst of a pandemic – is another significant move, added Bush.
“We’ve worked really hard to ensure that Scotland has the two best possible dates on the calendar,” he said. “We have secured them for the next five years, the men’s before The Open, the women’s before the AIG Women’s Open.
“I think this course will be really exciting for the women to play on what, even after just 13 months, one of Scotland’s jewels in the crown. This is a really special venue.
“It’s a great opportunity and we have got to seize it alongside this extremely visionary lady who has agreed to partner with us.”
The prize fund for the event, which takes place the week before the AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie, will be $1.5 million, but Dr Prin has plans to raise that considerably over the next few years.
“This is the home of golf and I would like to see the Women’s Scottish Open as a major with the same prize money or more of the other majors,” she said. “I don’t want it to just be another event.
“I want it to be an event where all the ladies are saying, ‘I want to play in the Women’s Scottish Open and there is no chance I want to miss it’.”
£11,500 for 100-round booking on only the second day open
David Scott, the Dumbarnie Links general manager, said it was “a great privilege” for the course to get such a prestigious event so quickly.
“We opened at the end of May last year and we are delighted with the way it has come on, having matured quite quickly,” he said of the Clive Clark design. “To be recognised as a venue that would fit such a prestigious event is wonderful from our standpoint.
Dumbarnie opened nearly a month late when golf-restarted after initial pandemic lockdown. But it has thrived with a strong word-of-mouth domestic clientele despite the lack of tourist visitors from abroad.
“We had to rethink things very quickly,” said Scott. “But we wanted to provide the best experience possible. So we ran a barbecue and refreshment tent outdoors seven days a week, and people reacted positively.
“With no international travel we had all the staycation people. With so many furloughed we were really busy, our tee sheet was full every single day through to November.
“We’ve had so many repeat guests, that’s been wonderful. Word of mouth and social media has been fantastic.
“One gentleman from Elie after only Day Two said he wanted to buy 100 rounds! He paid £11,500 straight up which was a great way to get started. That’s been the kind of reaction we’ve had.”