Golf: First Tee - Auntie at sea over Dunhill dilemma

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WHEN THE Ladies' European Tour, the poor relations of the professional game, finally get an event and a venue to capture the public imagination, the BBC pull the plug and leave the public to imagine what might have been. The Solheim Cup at Loch Lomond next year, the biggest tournament in women's golf in Europe, had the full support of Auntie until the ubiquitous IMG intervened.

The Solheim Cup match, between Europe and the US, will be played on a date in early October 2000 that puts it up against the Dunhill Cup at St Andrews. No problem. The BBC would have the Solheim Cup, Sky the Dunhill Cup.

But then IMG swapped the dates of the Dunhill with the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth and that caused a huge headache, not just for Auntie but the profile of women's golf. The BBC had also promised to cover the World Match Play but with that event clashing with the Solheim Cup they decided they could not televise both. The loser is the Solheim Cup, which happens to be the odd one out in another respect. The other two events are both run by IMG.

"I don't see why the BBC feels compelled to cover the World Match Play," Tim Howland, chief executive of the Ladies' European Tour, said. "It's no more than an exhibition match run by IMG for a bunch of their own clients. The Solheim Cup won't be held in this country for at least another eight years. If the BBC really wanted it they could do it, either by using BBC Scotland or showing both events on BBC1 and BBC2. This is a great shame, particularly for the players. The Government is urging women's sport to be more attractive and it would help if more people could see it yet here we have the BBC losing another big event, this time deliberately. When it comes to dates, IMG always act in the best interests of their clients. Maybe they didn't want the Dunhill clashing in Scotland with the Solheim."

Coincidentally, IMG were also responsible for running the Solheim, but a few months ago Howland relieved them of the responsibility. "It made economic sense to organise it ourselves," Howland added. The Solheim Cup could still be televised by either Sky or C4 but Howland said: "From the public interest we wanted it made available for everyone."

Open and shut case

WHEN JUSTIN Rose turned professional and found it hard-going, a lot of people said he should have remained an amateur for at least a few more years. What will they tell Matt Kuchar? That he should have turned pro? Kuchar, a key figure in the US team that contests the Walker Cup against GB and Ireland at Nairn next weekend, won the US Amateur Championship last year and although he had the chance to cash in on his success, he remained in the unpaid ranks. While his peers Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia have been making extravagant sums, Kuchar - he's the one who permanently smiled his way through the majors and had toothpaste manufacturers frothing at the mouth to sign him - went back to the US Amateur last month. There was no defence of his title. He didn't even make it through the qualifying.

"When you tee it up in the Open or the Masters as an amateur, there's a special feeling about it," Kuchar said. "There's a sense from the public that you love the game and you're not just another one of those money- hungry kids."

Hot-shot for horse chestnut

AN ALBATROSS, my kingdom for an albatross. When the Victor Chandler British Masters begins at Woburn next Thursday, the players will be jockeying for position coming down the 18th. The first player to make an albatross two at the last will win a racehorse.

The chestnut colt will be trained by Robin Bastiman at Goose Moor Farm on the outskirts of Wetherby and will run as a two-year-old over five and six furlongs next year. "He's a nice, laid-back sort," Bastiman said. "I hope someone wins him because they'll have a lot of fun."

Unlike a flashy motor, which is usually positioned on course as a prize for a hole in one, the four-legged friend will not be on duty nibbling the rough around the 18th green. The colt, of course, is on offer because the tournament is sponsored by a bookie. The company is described as Britain's leading independent bookmakers, although it recently moved its operation to Gibraltar to exploit a lower betting tax on the rock. Should any player get lucky with the long shot, he will enjoy ownership for a year, with training fees paid, in a prize worth pounds 25,000. He will also be able to name the horse and Bloody Miracle would be apt. To bet on the rare sight of an albatross, Victor Chandler should not offer you odds of less than 1,000,000 to 1. The 18th on the Duke's course is a par five, measuring 514 yards. There is more chance of Chubby Chandler, Lee Westwood's manager, riding the Derby winner.

Disconcordant caddies

THE HUMBLE caddie, whose job security is on a par with that of the manager of Newcastle United, is going up in the world. As if our team have not got enough to worry about for the Ryder Cup against the US, they've suddenly decided they can't bear to be parted from the men who carry their bags, peel their bananas and hand them the wrong clubs. "We're a team and we should travel as a team," Lee Westwood said.

Four years ago, for the match in Rochester, New York, the caddies accompanied the players on Concorde and suffered the odd supersonic hangover. This time Concorde's 100 seats are taken by the players, wives, officials and alickadoos. "I'm not bothered who's on Concorde as long as the caddies are," Westwood said. "If we're to have any unity they should be on the flight with us. Our advantage is we have always had great team spirit. Why break it up and change a successful formula? Caddies don't perform well with jet-lag."

While Westwood's sentiment is a noble blow for a class accustomed to sitting at the back of the plane, it has left the Ryder Cup committee speechless. The caddies will, in fact, fly Business Class, their 747 departing Heathrow for Boston at the same time as Concorde, four days before the start of the match.

"Concorde will get there first," said a Cup spokesman, "But if the caddies feel they need to be in America earlier, we can change their tickets."