First Minister tees off ahead of Women’s British Open

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  First Minister Alex Salmond has confirmed the Scottish Government’s strong support for women’s golf as he teed off with two of the sports leading talents – Catriona Matthew and Connie Jaffrey – in a pro-am ahead of this week’s RICOH Women’s British Open.

With the tournament benefitting from EventScotland support in a deal that will bring the competition to Scotland five times in the decade leading up to 2020, the First Minister hailed the latest participation rates showing the number of girls playing golf in Scotland is now well above par thanks to the ClubGolf initiative which introduced almost 20,000 girls to the game in 2012.

According to ClubGolf, girls now account for almost half of current primary school participants in the innovative development programme.

As Catriona Matthew bids to win the Women’s British Open for a second time after rising to her highest ever world ranking, the First Minister said she and fellow Scot Carly Booth – who qualified for the tournament after a 12-player play-off at Kingsbarns on Monday – were fantastic ambassadors for the national game and a wonderful example for any young golfers starting their career.

The First Minister also praised Connie Jaffrey – the current Scottish Girls’ Champion – and a graduate of the ClubGolf initiative which has introduced a total of more than 260,000 youngsters to the game.

Speaking ahead of the event, the First Minister said the government remained absolutely committed to all forms of the game in Scotland as he said that, as the Home of Golf, Scotland had a responsibility to nurture talent in both the men’s and women’s game and promote equality for female players across the country.

The First Minister said:

“This week Scotland will take centre-stage again when the best female golfers from across the world come to the Home of Golf to play in the RICOH Women’s Open teeing off on the Old Course at St Andrews and being beamed across the world to hundreds of millions of golf fans.

“Scotland will be well represented in the tournament by Catriona Matthew, who has just risen to her highest ever ranking (10th) in the world and is preparing to be part of the European Solheim Cup team that travels to Denver to defend the cup against the USA.

“Catriona will be joined at St Andrews by Carly Booth, the current Aberdeen Ladies Scottish Open champion, who survived a nail-biting 12 player play-off at Kingsbarns to qualify for the main event.  Catriona and Carly are fantastic ambassadors for the game in Scotland and a wonderful example to any young golfer starting their career.  I wish them both the very best this week.”

Preparations in St Andrews are well underway with media stands and a corporate village already constructed for the event which is expected to attract tens of thousands.  The defending champion is South Korea’s Jiyai Shin who won her second Ricoh Women’s British Open title last year at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club.

Mr Salmond added: “As the Home of Golf we have a responsibility to nurture the game at all levels, and I am delighted at the latest participation rates showing the number of girls playing golf in Scotland is now well above par thanks to our ClubGolf initiative.

“That progress is typified by the success of Connie Jaffrey – herself a ClubGolf graduate who is now the Scottish Girls’ Champion.

“As well as the fantastic work being done by ClubGolf, which has seen more than 260,000 youngsters introduced to the game, the Scottish Government supports this elite competition, with the Women’s British Open benefitting from EventScotland support through a deal that will bring the tournament to Scotland five times this decade up to 2020.

“But we also have a responsibility to promote equality in the game, and that is why we have made clear our preference that all clubs in Scotland adopt a policy that promotes equal access to our wonderful courses. The fantastic links here at St Andrew’s can be enjoyed by both men and women equally, as it is a public links and operated by the St Andrews Links Trust.”