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Ballesteros struck by arthritis, might not ever play golf again

Dave BowersBy Dave Bowers,

Former Ryder Cup captain Seve Ballesteros says he may never swing a club again because of arthritis.

The complaint, traditionally regarded as an old man's affliction, has enveloped the 47-year-old Spaniard.

"I have to face up to the fact that I may never play again in competition," said Ballesteros.

"My back is riddled with arthritis and I have no feeling in the middle of my neck. I have hardly any mobility.

"I wouldn't say I am destroyed mentally but I am very low. I wake up and I don't know what to do."

The 47-year-old has struggled to keep his name on the leaderboard since his last tournament victory in 1995, although in 1997 he captained Europe when they retained the Ryder Cup at Valderrama.

"I have to accept that everything has a beginning and an end, although, of course, it would be a bit sad if this is it," added Ballesteros.

"But I hit 200 balls one day a month ago and the following day I could barely move.

"There is no cartilage left between my vertebrae and every time I practice they rub together. When that happens it goes way beyond discomfort. I know pain, but no one could play golf with this amount of pain."

Ballesteros is involved in charity work, raising over $236,000 for the families of the victims of the March 11 bombings in Madrid. He also hopes to open 10 golf schools to encourage young people to play.

"I am not confirming this is the end because you always hope for a miracle cure, but what can you do?" he added.

Greens are go - thanks to thieves

Thieves are stealing valuable equipment from their own community club in Scotland.

In the past few weeks work has been going on to carve out a six-hole pitch and putt course and a top quality putting green at Kilwinning Sports Club's Pennyburn Complex.

But now the opening may have to be delayed because thieves have not just been stealing tools and equipment - they've literally ripped up the newly-laid turf and carted it away.

The raiders have steadily filched equipment including a fork, three shovels and a hedge cutter.

But they became even more daring with 20 fence posts, 20 five-metre lengths of wood and 40 one-metre wide rolls of turf all going walkabout.

A spokesman said: "It's obviously not kids who are doing this, so if anybody sees a garden which has been transformed from an eyesore into a bowling green overnight we'd appreciate a wee phone call."

Tour's shop goes live

A new web shop selling the European Tour's own branded golf leisurewear and accessories collection came on line on May 27.

Designed and developed by Premier Style, licensee of The European Tour Golf Collection, the Web site offers an on-line shopping facility to over 350,000 users of the www.europeantour.com site every month.

Golfers can choose from a full range of The European Tour's own collection of men's and ladies' golfing leisurewear and accessories by accessing the shop drop down menu on the www.europeantour.com home page or going directly to www.europeantourshop.com

Mark Lichtenhein, director of IT and new media for The European Tour, said: "Europeantour.com has grown into an increasingly important marketing channel of the Tour and the web shop is an ideal vehicle for servicing the needs of our consumers."

Landmark may resurrect golf course

A former international soccer player has spoken for the first time of his plans to build a golf course on one of Wales' best-known natural attractions.

Dean Saunders says he wants to build a world-class course on top of Llandudno's Great Orme.

Saunders insists his investment will develop the area sensitively and enhance its wildlife habitats.

He believes his plans for the Orme, a site of special scientific interest (SSSI), have the backing of the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW).

The ex-Liverpool and Wales star bought the site two-and-a-half years ago with the intention of re-establishing a golf course that was on the Orme between 1906 and 1942. During WWII, the course was turned into a potato field.

Saunders said: "I can remember the views on the top of the Great Orme from when I was younger and they are breathtaking.

"Golf has always been one of my great passions and I found out through chance that there was a golf course there before the war. I've played golf all over the world and that site is as good as any.

"If you were playing golf up there in the weather we have been having, you couldn't wish to play anywhere better in the world.

"You've got the sea all the way around it near enough. On clear days you can see across to the Isle of Man, up to Blackpool, Colwyn Bay and Anglesey."

The 39-year-old has submitted an outline planning application with Conwy council and hopes the course could raise Wales' golfing profile in the run up to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport.

Saunders has enlisted the help of personal friend Ian Woosnam to help design his new course.

Edinburgh club raided

Two armed robbers left an elderly female employee and a taxi driver locked in a cupboard while robbing an Edinburgh club.

The men, one of whom was wearing a Spider-Man mask, were lying in wait for the woman as she locked up the Carrickvale Golf Club.

They threatened the taxi driver with a handgun before leading the pair back inside.

Police said the pair demanded cash from the terrified woman, who handed over £400 in cash.

The victims were then forced into a cupboard and told to wait.

Faldo makes spectacle of himself

Nick Faldo wore glasses on a golf course for the first time in the Deutsche-SAP Open in Germany in May.

The 46-year-old said: "I've had the glasses for about a year, but it was only yesterday I decided to go with them here.

"I spoke to my 'putting and eyeballs man' and he told me to try them. I' ve been really struggling to read the lines recently.

"For the first hour it was dreadful - like putting on top of a saucer - and although it's feeling better now I didn't hole a thing.

"I have a lot of work to do: line, pace and stroke. Apart from all that I have really got it sussed."

So he thought - he subsequently missed the cut.

New champ Ramsay pays tribute

Richie Ramsay won the Scottish Open amateur strokeplay title at Lundin with a closing five-under 66 for a 15-under par 269.

And the Aberdeen ace said partnering Walker Cup star and defending champ Gary Wolstenholme inspired him to his record-busting win.

Ramsay, who shaved two shots off the previous record low by Barclay Howard in 1997, said: "Partnering Gary helped me focus on my game.

"He's a great player and I was trying to match him shot for shot. When you play with someone like him it gives something extra to your game.

"Winning a national title has always been one of my ambitions. There are some great names on the trophy and it will probably take a while for this to sink in."

Private members' bill criticises private clubs

Golf clubs that open their doors to women should not be allowed to discriminate over tee-off times or clubhouse access on the grounds of sex, the House of Commons has heard.

A bill tabled by backbench Labour MP David Wright, granted its second reading, proposes the extension of discrimination legislation to cover private associations.

His 'simple and short' proposals - ironically, in the form of a private member's bill - would not in general apply to single-sex clubs but only those that offered membership to both genders.

It would only apply to a single-sex club on a temporary basis if it admitted members of the opposite sex for a day or evening.

The purpose of the Sex Discrimination (Clubs and Other Private Associations) Bill was to stamp out the kind of behaviour "unacceptable in this day and age" in golf clubs and working men's clubs.

This included golf clubs who imposed restrictions on women members such as when they could play and where they could socialise. In some cases women were only allowed to play on weekdays, a "ridiculous" practice reflecting the old-fashioned view of women staying at home while their husbands went to work, said Wright.

"It fails to take account of the fact that lifestyles have changed significantly," he said.

The Equal Opportunities Commission has voiced its support for the bill, but the Royal and Ancient Golf Club has told Mr Wright it is not prepared to back legislation.

Morris is cleared after investigation

The world blind golf champion, who faced an investigation after complaints that he could see more than he claimed, has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

David Morris, from Cornwall, has "not infringed any rules regarding his classification", the English Blind Golf Association (EBGA) ruled.

The news will come as welcome relief to the 61-year-old golfer who was on tenterhooks after a complaint led to the investigation.

The ruling by the EBGA should silence Morris' critics who have, according to one friend, spent years spreading rumours of the golfer's sight and level of golf ability.

A statement released by the EBGA, a charity organisation whose patrons include Nigel Mansell OBE and Nick Faldo, said Morris had faced several random sight tests.

On every occasion independent medical experts confirmed that he was in the B1 category, as set out by International Blind Sport.

The B1 category states that a competitor must have "no sight at all up to light perception" and is "not able to recognise the shape of a hand at any distance".

Morris won the World Blind Golf title in 2002 and successfully defended it in Australia in April, winning by 24 strokes.

Rumours about Morris' sight have circulated at Newquay Golf Club, where he is a member, for a number of years, according to friend Alan Tutte.

Tutte said: "There has been this sort of tongue-wagging for years, but he has also been going to an eye hospital for years.

"I've taken David around golf courses but I've never gone into the mechanics of the situation. David always has someone with him."

New course has six appeal

It may be a good walk spoiled - but at least it won't take as long.

A new six-hole golf course designed to be played in an hour is being planned for the central belt of Scotland.

The Playgolf company, which is spending £7m on its first project in London, is searching for a 40-acre site to take the concept north of the Border.

It believes both existing players and recruits are being put off the game by the time it takes to play a traditional 18-hole or even nine-hole round.

The new course is aimed at those who want to squeeze in a game of golf in around an hour without losing out on the proper experience.

The six fairways and greens will be modelled on legendary holes from around the world, providing classic tests of driving, iron play and putting.

In Scotland, that is likely to include the famous Road Hole at St Andrews and the oceanside 18th at Pebble Beach in California.

The designers intend to re-create not only the holes but the unique flora and fauna, such as gorse, heather and different types of grass, that make them so special.

On its London site, Playgolf will recreate the rolling, azalea-lined fairways of Augusta, Georgia.

Playgolf's consultant is Peter McEvoy, the former Great Britain Walker Cup captain, who was brought up in Gourock.

One of the amateur game's most respected figures, McEvoy said he hoped six-hole courses would revolutionise the game and make it more accessible for greater numbers of people.

"When surveys are carried out they invariably say golf is facing two major problems: cost and time. Many people with busy lives just cannot spare the four to five hours it takes to get in a full 18 holes these days.

"The other problem is that it often takes quite a while to get to golf courses."

Six-holes courses, which could be contained on small, brownfield sites near large centres of population, offer a solution, McEvoy said.

"Many people play the game when they are young and again when they get towards retirement age. But there is a whole swathe who love golf but grow up, get married, have kids and busy working lives in which time is at a premium.

"We hope we can give them the opportunity to come back into the game."

Michael Tate, director of the St Andrews-based Royal and Ancient Golf Club, the game's governing body, said: "Traditionally golf has been either 18 holes or split down into nine if time is a factor, but there is no reason why people shouldn't play six if they want to. If it gets more people playing golf then all the better."

New Course set for Loch

A new £50m public golf course and leisure resort on the banks of Loch Lomond has been given the go-ahead.

The complex will include a pay-and-play championship golf course and 96 five-star holiday lodges and is set to open in 2006.

It will be the first time ordinary golfers will have the chance to grace fairways at one of Scotland's most famous golfing venues.

Sir Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood, Robbie Williams and Sir Jackie Stewart play regularly at two exclusive clubs on the bonnie banks.

The public course will be the centrepiece of a 300-acre development within the grounds of Cameron House. It will be built on land a mile from the lochside hotel and will border the exclusive Loch Lomond Golf Club.

Golfers will be able to pay a set fee at the clubhouse to gain access to the championship course. Full planning permission for the entire development has been granted by Argyll and Bute Council.

The 18-hole golf course, designed by award-winning Canadian architect Doug Carrick, is being constructed on the site of a disused gravel pit in Midross.

Prize money increased

Prize money for this year's 133rd Open Championship at Royal Troon will be a staggering £4m - £100,000 up on last time.

The extra cash is to be distributed among the 70 players who make the cut and will not go to the champion.

However, he will not be short changed, for his cheque this year will be for a whopping £720,000 - up £20,000 from last year.

It equates with 7.1 million dollars so that should be an attraction to the Yanks.

In recent years prize money has increased substantially and in the seven years since Justin Leonard won at Royal Troon the first prize has gone up almost three fold from £250,000 to £750,000 and the total kitty from £1.6m to £4m.

Looking for bright future

Young golfers from all over Europe will descend on Deer Park Golf Club in Livingston next month to try to secure prestigious scholarships to the United States.

Around 110 boys and girls between 16 and 20, all with handicaps under four, will take part in a 36-hole competition on June 7 and 8 in front of up to 30 coaches from the States.

Thousand up for Tour

The European Tour reached a significant milestone in its 33-year history when the Volvo PGA Championship became the 1000th official counting tournament to be played since the Tour's inaugural event - the Spanish Open at Pals Golf Club on April 12, 1972.

By coincidence, the 1000th tournament fell on the 50th anniversary of the Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth Club, Surrey, England, creating a notable landmark week for the Tour at their headquarters on the Wentworth Estate.

Scott Drummond's victory lifted him 340 places in the World Golf Ranking to number 95.

Women's Open for Old Course

The Weetabix Women's British Open Championship will break new ground in 2007 when it is played over the Old Course, St Andrews.

It will become the first championship for women professionals to be played at the 'Home of Golf' although through the years the Old Course has hosted 26 Open Championships and numerous other professional tournaments and is the venue for next year's Open.

"The Ladies' Golf Union is delighted the world's top women professionals will have the opportunity in 2007 of playing over the world's best-known course,' said Andy Salmon, chief executive of the LGU.

The Weetabix Women's British Open has been played in Scotland only once, in 2002, when the winner at Turnberry was Australian Karrie Webb.

The championship will be played at Royal Birkdale in 2005, Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2006 and then St Andrews in 2007.

Duo are honoured

Veteran teacher and former European Tour chief John Jacobs, OBE and Ryder Cup golfer turned TV commentator Peter Alliss, have been made honorary members of the R&A.

The R&A's general committee said both men have accepted the invitation.

Jacobs, 79, has served a lifetime in golf and is generally recognised as being a pioneering architect of Europe-s united approach to the present-day game.

Born in Yorkshire, the son of a golf professional, Jacobs' golf career included playing in the 1955 Ryder Cup and winning both the Dutch Open and the South African Match Play Championship. However, it is for his work in teaching and in golf administration that he is perhaps more widely recognised.

He was the first tournament director general of the PGA which led to the formation of the present PGA European Tour and his services to golf have been recognised by the award of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1997 and by induction to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2001.

Peter Alliss, born in Berlin in 1931, was also the son of a golf professional and at the age of 16 followed his father Percy into the professional game.

During his distinguished playing career' that lasted until 1974, he won three British PGA Championships, played in eight Ryder Cup teams, represented England in 10 World Cup teams and won 23 tournaments.

Alliss' early retirement from tournament golf led to a successful triple career as a broadcaster, writer and golf-course designer.

It is for the first of these that he is best known and it was in 1961 that he first commentated for the BBC and went on to become the most widely recognised voice in the world of television golf broadcasting.

The total number of honorary members is now 15: His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, KG, KT; His Royal Highness The Duke of York, KCVO, ADC; His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent, KG, GCMG, GCVO; President George Herbert Walker Bush, KGCB; Tony Jacklin, CBE; Kel Nagle; Jack Nicklaus; Arnold Palmer; Gary Player; Peter Thomson, CBE; Lee Trevino; Roberto De Vicenzo and Tom Watson.

McGimpsey facing drugs probe

Garth McGimpsey, the captain of Great Britain and Ireland's Walker Cup side and Northern Ireland's most capped amateur golfer, has protested his innocence after more than £100,000 worth of cocaine was reported to have been sent to his home in Northern Ireland.

The former British amateur champion, 48, was arrested at his home in Bangor following a Customs and Excise investigation.

He was questioned by Customs officers and detectives after cocaine was delivered to his house.

McGimpsey was then released on bail pending inquiries. One of the best respected men in amateur golf, the Walker Cup captain is set to receive an MBE from the Queen at Buckingham Palace in recognition of his services to the game.

McGimpsey was an outstanding leader of the GB&I side which pulled off an historic third successive win over the USA at Ganton last summer.

A spokesman for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, the organisation which appoints the Walker Cup captain, admitted the club was aware of the incident involving McGimpsey but had no other comment to make.

McGimpsey, a former long driving champion, is due to lead the defence of the Walker Cup at the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Illinois, next summer.

As well as captaining the side at Ganton, McGimpsey also played in three Walker Cup teams in 1985, 1989 and 1991. He won four, halved two and lost five of his 11 matches and played a part in helping GB&I to defeat the US on home turf for the first time 15 years ago at Peachtree in Atlanta.

Roe slams R & A

Mark Roe has reacted angrily to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club's revamped recording system for this year's Open, describing it as "a farce that will upset the players even more".

Briton Roe was disqualified with his Swedish playing partner Jesper Parnevik at last year's Open when the players signed for the wrong scores after failing to exchange cards at the start of Saturday's third round.

As a result, the R&A has decided to increase its team of recorders from two to five for the July 15-18 championship at Royal Troon where, for the first time, players will be able to compare their scores with the official recording system.

However, Roe, whose scorecard blunder last year cost him a tie for third going into the final day at Royal St George's, said he "disagreed 100 percent" with the R&A's decision.

"This is just a farce. It's exactly what the players don't want - more people milling around in recorders," he complained.

"And we don't want people who are not used to recording day-in day-out - we want professionals. It should be professional recorders from the European Tour and America doing the job.

"You don't bring in any old tin-pot firm to put up the stands and the tented village at the world's biggest golf event, you employ professionals and recording has to be the same.

"The problem last year was that the recorder didn't look at the card and then see who they were talking to. A professional recorder would know the players.

"How many times have the R&A staff done the recording job?

"Why can't we just employ the tour professionals, pay them a week's wages and let them do the job in shifts?"

Roe did, though, applaud the R&A's decision to ask Open starter Ivor Robson to hand each player his own card on the first tee before reminding players to then exchange cards with a playing partner to mark.

Dave lives on the south coast of England with partner Jackie and their three children. Originally a football writer in his homeland, he even rose to the giddy heights of public relations manager for an English professional Premiership side. But he'd been bitten by the golf bug and returned to his roots in journalism as executive editor for Golf Management Europe magazine and as a sports sub-editor/golf writer on one of the country's largest regional daily papers. Like all of us, he plays golf whenever he can - which isn't as often as he would like - and has even performed stand-up comedy in a top comedy club.

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