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My 2014: 'I can't see anything taking away from the magic of those three days of the Ryder Cup'

YOU would expect the managing director of one of the world's top hotels to be the soul of discretion and restraint, but Patrick Elsmie is possibly laying it on a bit thick as he describes the weather at Gleneagles last week.

"I think it's fair to say there has been a little precipitation in Perthshire," says Elsmie, delicately omitting to mention that the scenes around his celebrated establishment might well have tempted a few of his guests to check out early and try for places on the Ark instead.

The fact that Perthshire experiences rather more than a little precipitation on a fairly regular basis has been manna to the doomsayers who have predicted a disastrous washout when the Ryder Cup is staged at Gleneagles in late September.

Or, in other words, a repeat of what was witnessed in south Wales in 2010, when the tournament was last staged in Europe. The torrential downpour that hit the Celtic Manor course that year led to spectators being locked out of the venue, a revised format that required a Monday finish for the first time in the competition's history and comic scenes when the American team dashed into the hospitality village to buy waterproofs that actually worked, their own high-fashion items having failed them miserably in the first shower.

Elsmie, though, exudes an air of serenity as he considers what might lie in store when the Ryder Cup arrives on his doorstep this autumn. After all, it is not as if the thing has crept up on him, for it was as far back as September 2001 that Gleneagles was confirmed as host for this year's edition of golf's most intense and compelling tournament. Even that announcement added another year to the preparation time, the 9/11 attacks that had just taken place having forced all subsequent events into even, rather than odd-numbered years.

"I once said that it might have been easier to have just a couple of years to get ready for it," says Elsmie. "But now it is here it is going to be a year of enormous excitement. For us, the Ryder Cup is the pinnacle that we have been looking forward to since 2001. It is extraordinary to think after all this time that in 2014 the wait will be over and we will see the event come together.

"I think it will be fantastic, not just for Gleneagles, but for Perthshire and Scotland. It will be just a wonderful event and I can't see anything taking away from the magic of those three days."

Not even the weather? Not even the security concerns of staging the event in what is, essentially, open countryside? Not even the mountain of logistical issues created by funnelling tens of thousands of spectators into a small corner of rural Scotland? Not even the worry that Gleneagles' guests throughout the rest of the year have not paid Gleneagles prices for the privilege of staying in a building site?

To add to all the other challenges, there is no practice run. Gleneagles stages significant tournaments every year - the biggest being the Johnnie Walker Championship in August - but nothing on the scale of the Ryder Cup. Instead, Elsmie's reference point as he anticipates what is to come is the G8 summit which took place at the hotel in July 2005.

"There is no doubt in our minds that the G8 was a really good experience to go through," he explains. "In some ways it established our credibility for staging something like that, but it meant we had a bit of a trial, if you like, in making sure that there would not be disruption to the guests before and after a big event. "The same thing will apply around the Ryder Cup. We will have structures being erected around the golf courses, but fortunately they are a little remote from the hotel. People will be aware that something is happening, but thankfully the impact on our guests will be minimal before the actual event kicks off.

"From our perspective, I think we know where we are. We've had enough time to prepare for this. It is going to be a great year and this will be an exciting event whatever happens. All we can do is prepare for anything that can come our way."

Which, as he admits, can also include precipitation, sometimes a lot of the stuff. Having kept a watching brief at all the Ryder Cups staged since Gleneagles was awarded the event, the most significant part of Elsmie's learning curve was to see how Celtic Manor dealt with the weather that landed on it in 2010. In turn, the most important addition to the Gleneagles PGA Centenary course was the £500,000 SubAir system that has now been installed beneath all the greens, which effectively sucks moisture down from the turf and keeps the putting surfaces playable.

Elsmie says: "The amount of work we have done in preparation for it will, I think, go a long way to lessen the nervousness. One thing we do know is that the end of September can be a period of changeable weather in Scotland. Is that something that causes me great concern? It is at the back of our minds, but I'm confident we can deal with it."

Elsmie, previously operations director at Gleneagles, has held the top job at the hotel since 2007. However, the Ryder Cup is set to be his swansong, as he intends to retire afterwards.

As yet, he has no exact departure date in mind, but part of his drive to get everything right this year is unquestionably his desire to finish on a high. "I will step down at some stage after the event," he says, "but probably not immediately. However, I do plan on having warm sand between my toes at some point."

Until then, though, his nose is firmly against the grindstone. "There are going to be some great sporting events in Scotland this year. The Commonwealth Games is going to be wonderful, but it doesn't impact me in the same way as the Ryder Cup.

"I am desperately proud of the fact that Gleneagles will host the tournament, and desperately proud of how the team here have put so much into it. We can't wait to see it come to fruition."

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