• Also explains Phil Mickelson's 'support' for independence
• Slams Bob Diamond for Barlcays sponsorship withdrawal
ALEX SALMOND | SCOTTISH OPEN
Alex Salmond, the former First Minister of Scotland, has revealed that The Renaissance was knocked back as a potential Scottish Open venue for this year over concerns about its image.
Writing in his new book, ‘The Dream Shall Never Die’, which chronicles the 100 days leading up to last year’s historic Scottish independence referendum, Salmond discusses announcing Gullane as the host for this year’s event on the final day of the 2014 Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen.
The move, whilst not entirely unexpected, left many at the time wondering why the European Tour and the event’s sponsors, including the Scottish Government, had opted to take the country's flagship golf event to a venue that required creating a composite course from two its of its three existing layouts, as opposed to a seemingly purpose-built venue, like The Renaissance, just a few miles down the road.
At the time, Salmond explained that ‘the decision… was on the merits of Gullane and what Gullane had to offer’, whilst European Tour chief executive George O’Grady took the view that The Renaissance, which opened in 2008 but, in 2012, underwent £5m worth of improvements, including three new holes, was ‘still bedding in’.
"At £100,000-a-whack for family membership it would not communicate an ideal message about Scottish golf being open to all." - Alex Salmond on The Renaissance
In his book, however, Salmond offers a somewhat contrasting explanation.
He writes: “It is reasonably certain that Martin has come under a fair bit of pressure to take the tournament further along the coast to Renaissance, the new and hugely impressive development near North Berwick, but at £100,000-a-whack for family membership it would not communicate an ideal message about Scottish golf being open to all.”
Discussing Gullane directly, Salmond adds: “It is undoubtedly the right place to play the tournament – a community-orientated club without a whiff of gender discrimination and a flourishing junior section. It also boasts an outstanding traditional course with one of the most breathtaking seascape views of Scotland.”
Salmond also explains how five-time major winner Phil Mickelson wanted to help mend the rift that had developed between the First Minister and Donald Trump over plans for an offshore wind farm near the American tycoon’s new Aberdeenshire golf development.
Salmond partnered Mickelson during the pro-am at Royal Aberdeen, above, and recalls: “ also wants to broker a peace deal between me and Donald Trump, whom he likes, but doesn’t agree with on issues such as offshore wind energy. The proposals for a wind demonstrator in Aberdeen Bay have been reported as a spectacular falling-out between Trump and Salmond. I suggest that, in purely electoral terms, fighting with Mr Trump is far more beneficial than a reconciliation. In any case, the Lord Advocate would take a dim view of my even speaking to someone who is currently suing the Scottish government – albeit The Donald is losing and losing badly.”
Salmond also recalls a lighter moment with Mickelson, who he says 'asked for no appearance fee, which meant we were able to turn down all other such requests'.
“Coming up the last, Phil points to a bunker which a member had told him was only recently introduced – which on the Balgownie Links probably means in about 1950!
“He says: ‘I really don’t like that bunker. It’s wrong for the course. You are the First Minister. If you get it filled in I will declare for Scottish independence.’
“’Done deal,’ I reply, and we knock knuckles.
“’First Minister, you don’t understand,’ he says. ‘You have to fill it in by tomorrow, for the start of the tournament.’”
The Scottish Government, led by Alex Salmond, stepped in to help save the Scottish Open after Barclays withdrew its sponsorship following the event’s rain-affected debut at Castle Stuart in 2011.
Salmond reveals that the tournament was ‘in real jeopardy’ after the finance company pulled out.
Recalling the landslides that savaged parts of the Castle Stuart links during the 2011 event, above, Salmond writes: “I’m minded of a Saturday night call from the estimable George O’Grady of the European Tour.
“He was concerned they were about to lose the Barclays Scottish Open sponsorship and wondered if I could attend the final day of the tournament at Castle Stuart, which had suffered a flood of biblical proportions.
“I spent the best part of the Sunday talking to Bob Diamond, CEO of Barclays, who, when we weren’t talking about golf, spent most of his time talking about Bob Diamond.”
He goes on: “I made the point, rather movingly I thought, that given the heroic local efforts to save the tournament it would be fair-minded to give the North of Scotland a second chance to stage a major tour event. The last thing Bob said to George and me was: ‘See you next year.’
"While it seemed like a disaster at the time, it was all very much for the best." - Alex Salmond on Barclays' withdrawing its Scottish Open sponsorship
“A few weeks later, he cancelled the sponsorship.”
Salmond added that, in the Autumn of 2011, he ‘phoned ten top companies to make a plea to consider sponsorship’ before Aberdeen Asset stepped into the breach in time for 2012.
“While it seemed a disaster at the time,” recalls Salmond, “it was all very much for the best. In the 2012 tournament, if Barclays had continued their sponsorship, no one could have made use of corporate hospitality because the lead sponsor would have been totally immersed in the Forex scandal. The Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways.”
Alex Salmond, ‘The Dream Shall Never Die’
The quotes in the above story are taken from former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond’s new book, ‘The Dream Shall Never Die’, which is available now from amazon.co.uk and all other good book retailers.