'˜Bonkers' entry fee hike defended by LGA

A DECISION to increase the entry fee for the Lothians Championship by 160 per cent has been defended despite the move being described as 'bonkers'.

Thursday, 7th April 2016, 5:30 am
The Lothians Championship trophy will be up for grabs at The Renaissance

This year’s event is heading to The Renaissance Club for the first time, taking place in July rather than its traditional May slot. But it’s a change with the entry fee – it has increased from £25 to £65 – that is proving the biggest talking point among players.

“The Renaissance is a great venue and it’s refreshing to see the Lothians going there,” said former winner Steven Armstrong. “But how can they justify a 160 per cent increase in entry fee? My worry is that guys will not enter the tournament as they can’t justify the cost.”

Eisenhower Trophy winner Gavin Dear, who now lives in Edinburgh, said the increase was “bonkers” while South-East District Open champion Matt Clark also weighed in with some comments on social media.

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“Have to say, I’d pay more for a place like The Renaissance, but I think you are likely to rule out the majority of youngsters, which is not good given golf’s requirement to involve more younger blood,” he wrote on Facebook.

Though still over 36 holes, qualifying is being held on two days instead of one on July 9-10, with the field being limited to 96 and made up of players off four or better.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for our best amateur golfers to play an outstanding course at the height of the summer when the course will be in great condition for the championship,” said a statement issued by the Lothians Golf Association.

“The entry fee in the last few years has been £25 and for this year and the future entry fees will fluctuate given additional costs that will have to be borne from holding the event at top courses throughout the Lothians.

“With entry restricted to 96 players, we expect the championship to be oversubscribed. A ballot is likely, therefore we encourage prospective competitors to enter and make the most of this opportunity to play at least the two qualifying rounds at The Renaissance Club.”

Holding the flagship event at a course that was considered for the 2015 Scottish Open before it went to Gullane has earned the LGA praise from other players.

“Two rounds plus practice round and if you progress, you get more rounds – I think it’s a great deal!” said Stephen Buckley, who won the Scottish Boys Championship out of Prestonfield but is now at Royal Burgess.

Another member of the Barnton club, James Ross, said he felt the LGA should be “heavily praised”. The 2007 runner-up added: “Sure it’s more expensive but, if it really is the juniors who we’re all concerned about, then what better venue than there to inspire and improve a bunch of young players in a proper tournament?

“No offence to some of the other local clubs that have staged it before, but none come close to The Renaissance Club in terms of length and difficulty.

“Young players who want to get better must realize that playing courses under 6500 yards all the time isn’t the best way to improve. I hope people will pay the extra £30 or so and realise that, in the bigger picture, this is real progress!”