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THE SCOTTISH OPEN ANNOUNCEMENT


March 30, 2012


Martin Gilbert

Paul Lawrie

George O'Grady

Alex Salmond


SCOTT CROCKETT:  Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it's my great pleasure to welcome you here this afternoon.  Thank you all for taking the time to make the journey today for today's historic announcement.  It is indeed fitting that we make it not only in Scotland's capital city, but right here in the heart of one of our country's most iconic locations, the majestic Edinburgh Castle.
We have had tremendous support from many quarters in setting up today's proceedings.  Everyone associated with this announcement would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the staff here at the Castle for their help and assistance.
Before we open proceedings, let me introduce our top table to you.
Founded in 1983, Aberdeen Asset Management has grown to become one of the world's leading investment groups with offices in 23 countries around the world and a total staff of almost 2,000 people.  Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Chief Executive of Aberdeen Assest Management, Mr.Martin Gilbert.
Since becoming an MP for the first time in 1987, Alex Salmond has consistently been at the vanguard of Scottish political life, both at Westminster and here at Holyrood.  Elected SNP in 2004, he led his party to a majority of seats in Scottish parliamentary elections last May.  Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the First Minister of Scotland, the Rt Honourable Alex Salmond.
From its humble beginnings in 1972, The European Tour has grown to become one of the world's most influential sporting bodies, and in this, its 40th anniversary year, the Tour will contest some 46 tournaments in 25 countries, as well as overseeing Europe's defence at The Ryder Cup in Chicago in September.  Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Chief Executive of The European Tour, Mr.George O'Grady.
And last but by no means least is one of Scotland's most respected professional golfers.  He won his seventh European Tour title in Qatar last month.  Included in those victories are two in Scotland; of course, the 1999 Open at Carnoustie, but also the 2001 Dunhill Links at St. Andrews where he was partnered with none other than a certain Martin Gilbert.  Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Mr. Paul Lawrie.
Before we move into questions, I'd like to ask each of our top table guests to say a few words, starting with you, European Tour Chief Executive, George O'Grady.
GEORGE O'GRADY:  Thank you, Scott.  And thank you for those words of introduction to all of us; I've learned plenty already myself.
This is a tremendous day for The European Tour; another tremendous day to have The Scottish Open secured for the next three years.  It will be entitled the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.
We are indebted to the First Minister of Scotland firstly for getting this location today, the iconic Edinburgh Castle, which will show The European Tour another first with pictures of this castle outside on our screens.  It really is the most wonderful place to come.  First Minister, thank you for laying this on, because it's an honour to come into this castle on any occasion, and especially today.  Thank you.
Thank you, also, to everybody for coming today, all media, television, radio and all of the different bodies that I can see joining us today.  We value your time, and we value your support throughout the rest of the season.
For us to have Aberdeen Asset Management on board together with the government is really a strong announcement.  Aberdeen Assessment Management has supported golf at all levels for many years.  They have been involved with us and the R&A in The Senior Open; they have been involved with the Ladies Scottish Open at the moment; and they sponsor young girl golfers, and they have had many different professional golfers who have benefitted from their leadership and advice. 
I think I'll let Martin and the First Minister speak for themselves, but just from the European Tour's point of view, it's great to have you on board.  It's going to be a wonderful flee years on possibly the best tournament opportunity The European Tour has to offer.  Thank you.
SCOTT CROCKETT:  Thank you very much, George.  First Minister, please.
ALEX SALMOND:  Scott, when you were introducing us, I thought you were going to say, "On the tee."
As far as we can determine for the records, this is the first golf announcement at Edinburgh Castle.  Mary, Queen of Scots, who played a bit of golf as you know, spent a bit of time here.  But as far as we can tell she played her golf down at Holyrood Palace, as opposed to Edinburgh Castle.  So when we meet the ClubGolf kids from Turnhouse later on, we reckon this will be the first, at least official golf, which has been played here in Edinburgh Castle in the heart of Scotland.
Now I'm delighted to be part of the announcement today.  The securing of The Scottish Open the week before The Open championship, links courses in Scotland has been substantial and it was very important that that was done and has been done.
The government's involvement will be providing two million pounds of funding in total over the next three years.  The purpose of that is threefold.  One, we know from the analysis of The Scottish Open, that it has a direct economic impact of 5 million pounds a year, and that means 15 million pounds over the next three years in the Scottish economy.  It adds, of course, to an overall impact of 200 million pounds golf tourism total spend that we have in Scotland at the present moment.  And the coverage, which is very, very substantial, and will be the most we believe in the next three years, adds to that as an important aspect.
And thirdly, of course, we have a target and the buildup to the 2014 Ryder Cup, our obligations to promote the game of golf in Scotland.  It's worth noting, ladies and gentlemen, that last year, at Women's British Open, the Scottish Senior Open, the Scottish Hydro Challenge, The Scottish Open, and Aberdeen Ladies Scottish Open, the Johnnie Walker Championship, Dunhill Links and of course the Walker Cup were all events held in Scotland.  We consider it to be absolutely vital in pursuit of that that we secured The Scottish Open over the next three years.
Our contribution to this comes from both EventScotland and VisitScotland, and also, crucially, through cash back from communities.  That's the scheme that takes the money off some of the criminal fraternity in Scotland; takes money off bad people and gives it to good people and good causes and good sports.  And that money in particular, the cash back from the communities, will be aimed at the club golf initiative.
If you remember that we now have 40,000 nine‑year‑olds in Scotland, who get the opportunity to have a golf club in their hand in, and all 32 local authorities in Scotland are participating in the initiative, and some 74, 75 percent of nine‑year‑olds of Scotland get that opportunity.¬† And so we see The Scottish Open as a crucial part of having major initiatives, and coaching around the clock golf as part of the encouragement of young people's golf in Scotland.
Two more things.  Aberdeen Asset Management, one of Scotland's greatest financial sector companies, are the main sponsor, and this is fundamentally good for the game.  Aberdeen Asset Management have sponsored a number of Scotland's great players, one of whom is on my right here, and Martin Laird is another player being sponsored.  They have been involved in the game of golf, and to get to the stage of being an elite sponsor for a European Tour event is a very, very significant move which I welcome.
And lastly, I would like to acknowledge Paul is here and has offered me free lessons, and even apparently getting to supplant Martin Gilbert in the Dunhill if I'm lucky in the next year or two.
But I would like to recognize that Paul is one of our leading successful professional golfers, and along with Stephen Gallacher, who has invested a huge amount of time and effort in the encouragement of youngsters coming forward in golf.
So it's highly suitable that with Aberdeen Asset Management leading sponsorship with the involvement of Paul Lawrie, that we are going to drive this tournament forward, not just in advertising the game of golf in Scotland and not just in direct economic contribution, but also in securing the future of golf itself.
SCOTT CROCKETT:  Before we hear from the First Minister's new foursomes partner, we'd like to ask Martin Gilbert to say a few words.
MARTIN GILBERT:¬† The only problem with if the First Minister plays with Paul, I might have to play with Colin Montgomerie.¬† (Laughter) I don't know if that's a fate worse than death.¬† What do you think? (Laughter)‑‑ for Colin (laughing).¬† That's off the record by the way.¬† (Laughter).
Thank you very much for the kind words and thank you all for coming today.  We appreciate it.
Thank you to the First Minister and the Scottish government, both for the location of holding this event, and more importantly, the financial contribution, which allowed us to square the circle, if that's the correct word, and make sure that this event remains in Scotland.
And I'm especially taken by George's comments that this is the best, or one of the best, events in the European Tour.  I'm sure that's what he says at every press conference he goes to, but we are obviously very proud to be associated with this.  And I do genuinely think it is one of the top events; the week before the open, played on a links course.  I think it is a superb, superb event.
Obviously, at Aberdeen, the reason we looked so carefully at this event was the business has come a long way over the last 20, almost 30 years it's been in existence from when it started with three of us in a small room in Aberdeen to this global business with 33 offices around the world and 1800 people and 185 billion pounds under management; name awareness and brand building is a very important part of what we do.
And one of the statistics that may surprise you, if you read in the press about the demise of the U.S., is still the U.S. has 50 percent of the world's assets or 50 percent of the world's wealth still resides in the U.S.
So equally important to the press coverage, the television coverage here is that opportunity to see this event on the Golf Channel in the U.S., which I think reaches 92 million homes.  So it's a very important aspect of the sponsorship for us.
So I think that was all I was going to say, Scott.  So thank you very much again for coming along.  Thank you.
SCOTT CROCKETT:  Thank you very much, Martin.  Before we move to questions, finally some words from Paul Lawrie please.
PAUL LAWRIE:¬† Thank you, on behalf of the players I would like to obviously thank Aberdeen Asset Management for not only coming on board The Scottish Open for a three‑year term but for all of the work they do for all of Scottish golf, even sponsoring a boy like me.¬† I had a deal for a long time with Aberdeen Asset Management, and they are just one of these companies putting in huge amounts of money into Scottish golf.¬† Thank you very much, Martin.
Also like to thank the Scottish government and obviously the First Minister for helping get the tournament over the line; and obviously taking money off bad people is not a bad thing and using it for a good cause, so well done there.
Lastly, obviously thank The European Tour for bringing the whole thing together; to George and his team.  I've been on the Tour since 1992.  You guys do a great job, and again you've proved this week by getting the tournament over the line and securing The Scottish Open what a good job you do, so well done and thank you very much.

Q.  How many years are you committed to Castle Stuart at the moment?
GEORGE O'GRADY:  We are definitely playing Castle Stuart this year.  We have an option to continue one more year after that, or as long as we are welcome for.  We welcome Stuart McColm today on behalf of Castle Stuart.
It was immensely successful in 2011 despite the bad weather.  The stops that were pulled out by the club to really turn it on and find ways through that brutal rain that we had at the time; our players were enraptured about the course, and so we will analyze after we play this year and take a decision then.

Q.  Is the prize fund the same this year as last year?
GEORGE O'GRADY:  It will be 2.5 million pounds, right into 3 million the following year and the year after that.  There is a press pack, I think you'll be given on the way out which has all of the details of this, as well.

Q.  How important for the players is it to have the Scottish Open right before The Open Championship week?
PAUL LAWRIE:  Well, I think obviously moving to Castle Stuart was a huge move from the player's point of view.  I think you can see with the strength of the field that everyone enjoyed playing a links course the week before The Open.
I've said many times, if I was allowed to win one more event, I would want it to be The Scottish Open on my C.V., as obviously a Scottish player playing on the Tour, you want to win your National Open.  So I can only speak on behalf of myself; it's one of the most important weeks in my year.
GEORGE O'GRADY:  I think we can add to that answer.  To play Castle Stuart, for The European Tour to have this event secure now on a links course the week before has been greeted really well by the world players; not just by the home grown players here.  We consciously try to shape the Tour at the players' request to get on other good links courses.  And so to twin The Scottish Open here at Castle Stuart and the Irish Open at Royal Portrush in this particular year when The Open Champion is British, and the U.S. Open Champion is British, as well, I think means this will be tremendously well received.
I admire these two gentlemen for actually driving this thing through today, so that we can go to the Masters next week and let every player playing in the Masters know that the Scottish Open is secure with a good sponsor and good backing by the government.  It couldn't have come at a better time.
ALEX SALMOND:¬† I just want to say, when I gave Luke Donald the trophy last year, he told me he had a Scottish granny.¬† I offered him the opportunity to switch allegiance, but he was‑‑ (chuckling).¬† I think five of the world's Top‑10 played at Castle Stuart.
The statistics that really impressed us, with the huge analysis of the impact of the tournament, of the people that came from out of Scotland to the Castle Stuart event, as George says rightly, played under the most challenging conditions.  But of these people, 62 percent came to Scotland because they were going to The Scottish Open.  The overall spectators, 89 percent said they were likely or very likely to return to the event this year in 2012 at Castle Stuart.
And that just indicates that the event was a triumph of over the elements and an extraordinary success and a huge hit with the spectators.
I don't know if I'm being asked to present the trophy again this year.¬† That's a broad hint, but nonetheless (laughter) ‑‑ nothing would be a great pleasure to present it to somebody with a Scottish granny and a Scottish grand dad.

Q.  What was your first golf sponsorship and, given your relationship with Paul, how much would it mean to see Paul win the event?
MARTIN GILBERT:  Our first sponsorship is definitely Paul, way back.  And that would be fantastic.  I think I would present the trophy if Paul won.  (Laughter) I don't look good on TV, I would need someone else to do it.

Q.¬† An Aberdeen‑based company as a major sponsor‑‑ with the Trump International sponsorshi‑‑ how much is that on your radar over the next three years?
GEORGE O'GRADY:  It's not really. I've been to the Trump golf course, it is magnificent in my opinion, but we are talking three years ahead here, and you know, we are very happy at Castle Stuart for starters.  In this particular three years, I don't think that's realistic.

Q.¬† Just on Scottish golf, the Olympics can't have escaped your attention‑‑ with golf becoming an Olympic event in four years' time, there's a prospect that Scottish golfers may be asked to be‑‑ (Inaudible.)
ALEX SALMOND:  Well, I love hypothetical questions, but I'll attempt to hypothesize the success rather than failure.
Luckily if the time tables fit as they do and the stars are in alignment, the Scottish golfers wouldn't be faced with that difficult choice because they will have a Scottish team to participate in that sort of time scale.
I think it's great ‑‑ I don't think people look at the Olympics to replace the World Cup.¬† I don't think you can ever replace the majors as the ultimate accolades.¬† Those will be the ultimate accolades in golf regardless.¬† I think golf is the greatest game in the world, and every opportunity to see it displayed is very welcome and I welcome that Olympic development.
SCOTT CROCKETT:  Gentlemen, thank you very much for your attendance today.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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