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Beware an Englishman on the rise

Dave BowersBy Dave Bowers,

Americans beware. The lack of a European golfer in the world's top 10 does not mean the USA will find it easy to win back the Ryder Cup.

That's the view of Brian Davis, who predicted a bright future for English golf after his victory at the ANZ Championship.

The 29-year-old beat Seve Cup team-mate Paul Casey by one point in the modified stableford event to end a near four-year wait for his second European Tour title.

Victory moved him into fourth place on the European standings and the Londoner is excited about the possibility of travelling to Michigan for the defence of the Ryder Cup.

"A few years ago they were saying what a bad state English golf is in. Lee Westwood was going through a slump, there was no-one really coming through and now all of a sudden there are loads," he said.

"Westwood has come back. I can't say enough about Lee. It was sad to see him go through that slump and it puts things into perspective sometimes. He has bounced back and it was great to see him win two tournaments last year.

"If you get a bunch of youngsters who make the team I believe captain Bernhard Langer will pick some older guys for the experience, but I want to make the team on my own merit."

For the first time in as long as anyone dare to remember, there is no European in the world's top 10. That would not necessarily bode well for the Ryder Cup defence, but Davis sees hope for English, and therefore European, golf.

"You've got Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Paul Casey. I have no doubts Casey will be there in September," he said.

"He is a great player. We played together in the Seve Trophy and we did pretty well together."

Vote comes down on Dee-side of developers

Moves to halt a multi-million-pound development at a prestigious Scottish golf club have failed.

A meeting at Deeside Golf Club saw members resoundingly back plans to build a new clubhouse and alter the historic course.

More than 200 people turned out for a ballot after a group of disgruntled members tried to stop the development.

However, the rebel motion to halt the work for six months was defeated by 468-88.

The vote secures the construction of a new clubhouse, short-game facilities and driving range.

It will also result in a redesign of the 100-year-old course, with the first hole being replaced.

Club bosses now hope the matter will draw a line under a messy internal spat which first emerged last summer.

Captain George Esson said he was "delighted" after the outcome.

Are you allowed paws in the Spike Bar?

A sheepdog has been made an honorary member of her local golf club after rounding up thousands of balls lost on the course.

Cuillin, a 5-year-old border collie, has been given the freedom of the fairways at Insch Golf Club in Aberdeenshire following her remarkable success in returning wayward shots.

Her owner Richard Queen, praised his pet's uncanny talent.

"She can actually smell the balls. It doesn't matter if they are buried in the dirt or lost in woods - she can still find them," he said.

"She's more human than animal because she loves golf so much. She can sit for hours watching members play."

Cuillin recovers most of the lost balls while being taken for walks on the farmland which adjoins the course.

Queen continued: "Golfers are not allowed in there so Cuillin can get in among the corn and barley and dig out all their balls. In the summer, when the barley is three feet high, Cuillin will pop in and every few seconds will pop back out with a golf ball in her mouth. I don't know how she manages to do it or where her talent came from. She just saw me picking them up one day and it grew from there."

Bob Phillip, the captain of the golf club, said: "Cuillin is one of our staunchest supporters and most important members. Richard and she turn up every week with bags and bags of golf balls. It's amazing.

"Last year they even cleared out a burn at the course and discovered hundreds and hundreds of balls. I really don't know what we would do without them. They're quite a pair."

Historic club is discriminating against women

One of Ireland's top golf courses is discriminating against women by refusing to let them join the club, a Dublin court has ruled in a judgment hailed as a landmark by equality campaigners.

Mary Collins, a district court judge, ruled in favour of the government's Equality Authority, which argued that Portmarnock Golf Club was breaching a 2000 anti-discrimination law.

The Equal Status Act permits private clubs to restrict membership only if the club promotes an activity specific to a particular group. Collins ruled that the game is played equally by men and women, so no golf club in Ireland should be allowed to bar women.

But the judge declined to specify any punishment for the club pending the outcome of another case in the High Court, Ireland's second-highest court, which is weighing whether the 2000 act is constitutional.

Lawyers for the Portmarnock club argue it isn't. That case could take several months to be decided and could, in turn, be appealed by either side.

Portmarnock had argued previously that the club doesn't discriminate because it permits women and other non-member visitors to play at specific times during the week. It said members had overwhelmingly opposed giving membership rights to women during three debates on the subject since 2000. The National Women's Council of Ireland, which, inspired by similar protests against the Augusta National Golf Club in the United States, filed a discrimination complaint with the Equality Authority in 2002, says the policy means female golfers have no voting rights at the club and aren't allowed to play at the best tee-off times.

Open returns to Birkdale

Royal Birkdale has been named as the venue for the 2008 Open Championship. It will be the ninth time the British major has been held at the Lancashire course and the first time since American Mark O'Meara won in 1998.

"Royal Birkdale has endeared itself to all of the world's top golfers," said R&A chief executive Peter Dawson. "We are delighted to be returning in 2008."

Royal Birkdale first hosted the Open in 1954, Australian Peter Thomson winning the first of his five Open titles.

Eleven years later, he rounded off his collection of Open wins with a further triumph at Birkdale that he described as his greatest win.

Arnold Palmer triumphed there in 1961 and other winners at Birkdale include Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson, Ian Baker-Finch and most recently O'Meara.

Flop Davies would try again

Laura Davies has refused to rule out accepting further invites to take on the European Tour men, despite finishing second last in the ANZ Championship in Australia.

Davies crashed to a dismal minus-13 points stableford total, when she created history by becoming the first woman to compete on either the Australasian or European Tour.

She arrived at Nelson Bay having won four majors and 52 other events around the world but the 40-year-old looked hopelessly out of her depth.

Davies, tied for 124th at minus-1 after the first round, had a double bogey and nine bogeys second time out to miss the cut by 22 points. In stroke play figures she had rounds of 75 and 83.

She said: "I don't know if I will do it again because you never say never. The unfortunate thing is it was my first event in eight weeks and my short game and putting has let me down.

"The good thing is I am going to my next tournament feeling pretty good about my iron play. I would rather have had a go and not made the cut than just turned down the invitation.

"But I am disappointed as it just proves right those people who said I shouldn't play.

Judge supports member's "witchhunt" claim

A businessman who claimed he was the victim of a 'witchhunt' when he was banned from an exclusive golf club has won a court battle to overturn his suspension.

A judge criticised The Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh for deciding the punishment imposed on Yuill Irvine by its governing council in a way that breached rules of natural justice.

Lady Smith set aside the society's decision to suspend Irvine's membership for 12 months - the maximum penalty the club, founded in 1735, can impose. Lady Smith said, in her judgement issued at the Court of Session, she was also satisfied Irvine should have a refund on part of his fees.

A further hearing will be held to establish the figure.

Lady Smith said: "Whilst to some, the tensions between a golf club and its members whether in respect of their mode of dress or the volume of their exuberance, may seem trivial, two things arise in the present case which underline the importance of the dispute, at least to Mr Irvine."

The judge said that one was the annual fee of £945. Following his suspension on June 30 last year the golfer had been deprived of the benefit of over half that sum.

She added: "The other is that he is the managing director of a public limited company that provides financial services with clients who are also members of the society. They will have become aware of his suspension. I was advised by his counsel that he was concerned at the adverse effect on his reputation in his sphere of business. That concern is understandable.

Raise a glass to new event

A Californian winemaker is to launch a new amateur golf tournament in the UK. Beringer Blass is investing £1m to promote its brands in the UK this year, the majority of which will go on the Beringer Vineyards Mixed Foursomes, which tees off across England, Scotland, and Wales this spring.

The tournament will run annually for three years and is expected to attract up to 30,000 UK golfers in its inaugural year. It will offer club golfers the chance to win a trip to the Napa Valley in California where Beringer is based.

In a statement, Norbert Heinl, European brand manager for Beringer, said: "We're very excited about the Beringer Vineyards Mixed Foursomes, which is set to raise brand awareness and drive sales of our portfolio of premium Beringer wines, putting us firmly on the map within the California category. "The initial response from both golf clubs and golfers has been extremely encouraging."

The tournament is supported by The Daily Telegraph, the California Tourist Board, the Celtic Manor Resort in Wales, and two major golfing magazines, Golf Monthly and Women in Golf.

Murray wins development battle

Scottish soccer boss David Murray has won a 10-year battle to open a £5m golf course.

The metals tycoon, who is honorary chairman of Glasgow Rangers FC, had threatened to pull the plug on the US PGA standard course before a single round was played.

But council officials have caved in to his plans for luxury homes next to the course.

The £5m Torrance Park course in Newhouse, is owned by Murray and was designed and named after Ryder Cup-winning captain Sam Torrance.

The former Rangers chairman's development company, New Brannock, originally applied for planning permission in 1994 and the course was completed three years ago - but has never been used.

Building work, however, never got off the ground because he wanted the go-ahead for the residential development.

Now, despite furious opposition from animal welfare groups and archaeologists, he has been allowed to build 180 homes on the former open cast mine.

The West of Scotland Archaeology Service objected to the plans because it said the land contained "a range of sites of archeological significance". The plan will now be referred to the Scottish Executive, because it is contrary to greenbelt policy.

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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