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From a basket of soot to the extravagance of Nero

Did you know that it's only 293 days until the Ryder Cup gets going at Gleneagles?

The Glasgow Herald 1000 Guineas Tournament featured the first staging of what would go on to become the Ryder Cup
The Glasgow Herald 1000 Guineas Tournament featured the first staging of what would go on to become the Ryder Cup

Of course you did. Ever since those lavish, eye-wateringly expensive festivities were held to celebrate 'A Year To Go' back in September, you've all been eagerly marking off the calendar each morning and listening to the tick-tock of the giant clock you've perched on your mantelpiece in anticipation of the biggest event to hit Perthshire since the Yetts O' Muckhart Tattie Stomping Championship. Or perhaps not.

These days, there's always some press release, email, newsletter, blog, tweet or squawk informing you, with breathless excitement, of just how long you have to wait until the showpiece bursts into life. The modern day Ryder Cup is a vast, thundering gravy train and from September 26-28 next year, Scotland will be dipping its bread in it and sooking up the sodden spin-offs when it hurtles into town.

A figure in the region of £100m is the expected benefit to the nation's coffers. Hotels will be jam-packed and charging the earth while the corporate glad-handing and champagne cork-popping will make the rampant indulgences of an insane Roman emperor look like an exercise in low-key moderation.

It wasn't always like this, of course. Back in ye day, the Ryder Cup was about as lucrative as a basket of soot. For decades, the biennial battle was a cost rather than a money earner. A rummage through the books suggests that it was not until 1985, when Tony Jacklin's European team ended 28 years of US dominance by snatching the little gold chalice at The Belfry, that the event broke even and returned its first profit of £300,000. The previous contest on this side of the Atlantic, at Walton Heath in 1981, had made a £50,000 loss.

Some 60 years earlier, in 1921, the seeds of this grand transatlantic tussle had been sown at Gleneagles. When the redoubtable James Braid convinced the heid honchos of this very paper to cough up 1000 guineas in prize money, the Glasgow Herald 1000 Guineas Tournament became a considerable attraction. Held over the King's Course, as a timely warm up for the Open Championship at St Andrews, the Herald-backed event of that year would also feature an International Challenge Match between the British and American professionals. On Monday June 6, that encounter took place. Six years later, in June 1927, the first official Ryder Cup was staged at Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts.

In 2014, golf's greatest team grapple will come full circle, to that Perthshire terrain where it, effectively, had its beginnings. It could have been here earlier had Ian Marchbank, for years the face of the flourishing resort, had his way.

In his engaging, polished publication 'Jewel in the Glen', Ed Hodge traces the Ryder Cup's Gleneagles connections and unearths one or two gems. In one recollection, Marchbank, the head professional at Gleneagles for three decades, reflects on how he made a one-man assault to try and lure the Ryder Cup to the Big County. "In 1971 I tried very, very hard to get the Ryder Cup," he says. "Golf was a different game back then. I was pro at Gleneagles but I was virtually director of golf, which didn't exist in those days. The Ryder Cup had been held at Lindrick in Yorkshire in 1957, it was virtually bought for £10,000 by Sir Stuart Goodwin, a Sheffield businessman, as the PGA were struggling to finance the Ryder Cup.

"Goodwin insisted it be played at his home club, Lindrick. I used that to try and get it to Gleneagles. I thought that was the going price. I was at meetings on my own, nobody else from Gleneagles. Anyway, I missed out unfortunately.

"In those days the Ryder Cup was worth no money. It's nice for Gleneagles, having it in 2014, and nice for me from a historical point of view." In 293 days, Marchbank's vision will become a reality.

n 'Jewel in the Glen: Gleneagles, Golf and The Ryder Cup' by Ed Hodge is published by Birlinn's Arena Sport, price £25.

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