A tournament showcasing the best young golfing talent from around the globe is set to bring a major six-figure boost to the East Lothian economy.
Businesses, restaurants and hotels across the region are expected to benefit hugely from the U.S. Kids Golf European Championship, which takes place across five courses in East Lothian between May 26-28.
More than 400 young players from around the world are taking part in the tournament, which is the junior equivalent of the Open Championship and will see youngsters between the ages of six and 14 compete for the title of European Champion.
And as some competitors – who are travelling from as far afield as Australia, China, Philippines, United Arab Emirates, Guatemala, Peru, Puerto Rico and Panama as well as United States and from all over the UK – will likely bring many of their family members, it will provide a near £500,000 boost to East Lothian. Overall, the tournament is expected to bring economic benefits in the region of $3-4,000,000 (£2,068,965-£2,758,620) to Scotland.
Tournament co-ordinator Alasdair Good said that the inaugural event last year had helped to bring an estimated £400,000 in direct benefits to the East Lothian economy and he expects the 2009 tournament to bring similar if not more money into the area.
He said: “There are young players coming from all over the world to take part in this event. When you consider that all of these overseas competitors will bring an average of three to four other family members with them, it’s a lot of people who will be visiting East Lothian.
“It’s a big trip for players to make from countries such as the United States and Australia, so it becomes a family holiday for them. They bring their parents and siblings over to Scotland and, while they compete in the tournament, some of their family will go and explore the surrounding area. That means other parts of Scotland also benefit hugely from the tournament.
“We found last year that many of the overseas competitors choose to stay in hotels or guest houses in East Lothian during the event. They visited local restaurants and shops and their families explored tourist attractions in the area while the children were playing golf. It’s a massive direct boost for the local economy and we expect this year’s event to be just as beneficial.”
Alasdair added that as entry to watch the tournament will be free, they are hoping to attract a large number of spectators to the various courses.
Councillor Paul McLennan, economic development spokesman for East Lothian Council said: “We are delighted that the U.S. Kids European Championship has returned to East Lothian this year. Golf has long been an important part of the county’s economy and for more than a century, we have extended a warm welcome to professional and amateur players from all over the world.
“Our 22 courses, each with its own challenge and historical standing, offer a golfing experience probably without equal anywhere.”
East Lothian Provost Sheena Richardson added: “The event introduces young people to some of the interesting and exciting links courses available in East Lothian. With the news that Muirfield has been selected to host the Open Championship again in 2013, it is clear that we have courses which provide a high level of challenge for golfers.
“I hope that our young visitors thoroughly enjoy their competition and return some day, perhaps to compete in a future Open Championship in East Lothian.”
The event – which staged across Gullane No. 2, Gullane No. 3, Craigielaw Golf Club, Kilspindie Golf Club and Luffness New Golf Club – sees boys and girls split into different gender and age categories in order to compete for the title of U.S. Kids Golf European champion.
The top finishers in each category will then compete in the Van Horn Cup at Gullane No.1 – a showpiece event, modelled on the Ryder Cup, where the best European players are pitted against the top non-Europe golfers. The top five finishers in each age and gender group also automatically receive an invitation to the U.S. Kids Golf World Championships at Pinehurst Golf Club, North Carolina, in August.
A total of nine competitors from East Lothian will be taking part in the competition this year. They include North Berwick youngsters Calum Hill (13) and Finlay Goodlad (11), as well as Gullane players Lara Frostwick (14), Alexander Wilson (14), Duncan McLean (13), Graham Swan (13) & Charlotte Munro (9). They will be joined by 14-year-old Calum Slatterley, from Longniddry, and 14-year-old Nandini Nagra, from Aberlady.
Dewey Crim, Chairman of the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation, said: “Our mission is to help kids have fun learning the lifelong game of golf and encourage families to play together and enjoy the sport. We’re delighted that we will once again be welcoming so many young players and their parents from across the world to East Lothian. We are also very pleased that our event will bring some real benefits to the East Lothian community who always so welcoming to us.
“I’m sure that all of the competitors and their families will have a great time visiting the home of golf and enjoying the best that East Lothian – and the rest of Scotland – has to offer.”