Golf: Open hospitality sting: R&A give way to commercial pressures

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The Independent Online
WHEN Greg Norman won the Open at Royal St George's last summer he was seen drinking from a Schweppes paper cup in the Recorder's hut moments after his round.

If it was not the greatest moment in sport, it was one of the greatest in the commercialisation of sport. Needs, according to the keepers of the game's conscience, must. What happened at the Open in Kent last year seemed to have been born from a company in the Old Kent Road. It was, in fact, born at the home of golf, St Andrews. Huge, colourful advertising hoardings dominated various strategic points on the course.

The Royal and Ancient, who hosted a priceless day at Turnberry yesterday, have bowed to commercial pressures. 'It is quid pro quo,' David Hill, chairman of the championship committee, said. The R&A have six big sponsors. When the R&A secretary, Michael Bonallack, was asked about the obvious advertising, he replied: 'Advertising hoardings? I prefer to talk about our official sponsors. They have helped the Open to be a success.'

What is not a success is the approach of a number of firms offering corporate hospitality for the Open. Some sharp individual has offered 180 tickets at pounds 295 apiece to a multinational company, promising a situation near the seventh hole.

According to Bonallack, the company who bought the tickets did not read the small print. The seventh in question is not on the Open Championship course but on the adjacent Arran course, a John Daly driver away and then some. Punters seeking a ticket beside the legitimate seventh would find themselves between the beach and Ailsa Craig, a volcanic monument out to sea.

'Companies use the name of the R&A and the Open to sell their products,' Hill said. 'They're not even close to the golf course. It is very hard to control it. The worst thing is is that these people put nothing back into the game of golf.'