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Sisterly success could help bring big events back to bonnie banks

FOUR years have passed since championship golf was last played at Loch Lomond.

The Dundonald Links in Ayrshire, which is owned by the Loch Lomond club. Picture: Getty Images
The Dundonald Links in Ayrshire, which is owned by the Loch Lomond club. Picture: Getty Images

During the time the club regularly hosted the European Tour's Scottish Open, spell-binding images of the bonnie banks were beamed around the globe, while salivating golf writers had an annual opportunity to indulge themselves in its majestic opulence at the kind of lavish media day not seen since Nero entertained the scribblers of ancient Rome.

The financial troubles that were visited on the club - its former owner Lyle Anderson, the American businessman, defaulted on his bank payments in 2008 - eventually led to a members' buy-out in 2011.

By that stage, Loch Lomond had taken a step back from the tournament scene as the new management focused their energies on steadying the ship and bolstering the membership.

However, with Loch Lomond's second course, Dundonald Links, throwing its hat into the ring for the Scottish Open, the club's recovery continues. Bill Donald, the general manager, has witnessed at close quarters the growth and investment at Loch Lomond over the past three years and, while he did not want to peer too far ahead, the Irishman revealed there remains an appetite for bringing high-profile events back to the shores of this celebrated expanse of water.

That appetite will no doubt be whetted further should Dundonald, the highly-rated links course in Ayrshire, get the nod for the Scottish Open.

"Positive strokes change attitudes and minds and there's a certain amount of positivity around the club and certainly a large endorsement for Dundonald Links," he said. "Dundonald is a fantastic platform for us to get involved in all the different aspects of golf."

Asked if staging a WGC event, a tournament that had been touted in the past, would be a future target for a galvanised Loch Lomond, Donald said: "No, but I'm not saying it isn't an aspiration. It possibly should be. The team would have an aspiration for that.

"There's great confidence among the staff. They move as one, which is a unique thing about Loch Lomond. With the skills there are at Loch Lomond, through dealing with the Scottish Open, I think the board are mindful that the staff enjoy that sort of pursuit of something that has an international factor. If you are one of the 600 members you will want to see it on TV and have that badge of honour, if you like. But has it been touched on? No."

For the time being, Dundonald and the Scottish Open remain the focus. Set to be staged at Royal Aberdeen this year, the event will return to Castle Stuart during one of the next three years, while venues in both the east and west of the country are being sought for the other two as part of the current deal with Aberdeen Asset Management and the Scottish Government.

Plans are in place to build a permanent clubhouse at Dundonald and with the Open returning to nearby Royal Troon in 2016, it would seem that 2017 would be the ideal date for Dundonald's Scottish Open debut.

"Dundonald is set up for tournament golf and has been for a period of time," Donald added. "It has it all. It has the space, it has the access. We all know the history of Loch Lomond and the Scottish Open. There are good relations between a lot of people at Loch Lomond and the European Tour so it was a very easy chat to have. They (the European Tour) are keen to have somewhere in the west and we seem to tick a few of the boxes."

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