Gavin Hastings relishes Ladies’ Open chance

Gavin Hastings played alongside Tiger woods in Shanghai, China in 2010. Picture: Getty

Gavin Hastings played alongside Tiger woods in Shanghai, China in 2010. Picture: Getty

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GOLF-DAFT Gavin Hastings reckons he’ll learn more from playing in this week’s Ladies’ Scottish Open than he did from his round with 14-times major winner Tiger Woods.

The former Scotland and British Lions full back is one of the star celebrities taking part in the Aberdeen Asset Management-sponsored event, which started at Archerfield Links today and runs until Sunday. Hastings, who plays off five at Gullane and is partnering Sweden’s Linda Wessberg in the 54-hole event, is no stranger to testing his golfing skills in the company of professionals.

Indeed, in his role as an ambassador for the sponsor, he played with Woods during the week of the HSBC Champions event in Shanghai in 2010.

“I was s******* myself,” recalled Hastings of that experience. “As it was out in China, the crowd wasn’t as big as it might have been, so from that perspective it was okay. It was an amazing experience and something I will cherish for the rest of my life.

“But I think playing in an event with the ladies has a lot more relevance for an amateur golfer like myself due to the way they hit the ball and also the distance they hit it.

“It’s only natural that people want to play with stars like Tiger but, for me, the women are great to play with as they appreciate that sponsors are coughing up money to support their profession. The way they conduct themselves and go about their course management is very impressive. This is the third year in a row that I’ve played in this event. It is very tough when you are a fairly low handicapper like myself playing against high-handicappers but the important thing for me in an event like this to have a good game and enjoy the company.”

This is the fourth year the event has been held at Archerfield Links, where two DJ Russell-designed courses are augmented by superb facilities. “The girls like it here and it’s an excellent all-round facility,” said Hastings. “It’s great that a guy like Kevin Doyle, an Edinburgh man as opposed to an American, had the vision to create something that is so special and unique.”

When Scotland was bidding to stage the Ryder Cup more than a decade ago, Hastings’ company assisted the Scottish Executive. He still can’t believe there was initial disappointment when Wales won the 2010 match and, at the same time, the 2014 event was awarded to Scotland.

“Having an extra four years to prepare for an event like the Ryder Cup surely can’t be a bad thing and look now at the legacy it is creating,” he said. “Part of that is staging events like the Ladies’ Scottish Open, the Scottish Seniors Open, the Scottish Open and the Johnnie Walker Championship. For a country of our size, it is extraordinary the amount of top-quality tournaments we stage. We are punching above our weight and I don’t think people appreciate that.”

Hastings also wonders if Catriona Matthew, the star attraction at Archerfield this week, is totally appreciated in her homeland. “Catriona has had a stellar career and it’s unfortunate that ladies’ golf doesn’t enjoy a high profile in a football-mad nation like ours,” he said.