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Gavin Hastings speaks out
Before the 2009 (now 2010) Ryder Cup venue was announced, Scottish rugby legend Gavin Hastings took questions from ScottishGolf readers

Why is Scottish rugby union apparently in disarray at the minute?

'I think the problem has been with the two super teams [Caledonian Reds and Edinburgh Reivers] failing to grasp a popular hold among rugby supporters in Scotland. The fact that they have to play down in Wales every second weekend does not help their case and also the fact that neither side has a fixed and permanent base in Scotland means that almost every match is an away match. More stability plus playing rugby regularly on a Saturday afternoon would help.'

How good is the current English rugby squad?
'Very good and I am sure that will be reflected in the Lions squad when it is announced later this month. If the English players form the majority of the Lions test team and they are successful in Australia in the summer then I would expect to see England really going from strength to strength.'

What's your best ever round of golf?
'Probably at Turnberry when I shot 76 at the first time of asking with the incomparable caddie "Goose" [Ian Milligan] on my bag.

What's the fondest memory of your playing career?
'Probably after Scotland had been defeated by New Zealand in the quarter finals of the rugby world cup in South Africa in 1995 and being carried on the shoulders of Doddie Weir and Rob Weinwright on a lap of honor and know that I would never pull on the Scotland jersey again. There were thousands of Scottish supporters there and I couldn't have wished for a better sendoff.'

As a rugby player, what's the one thing you'd like to go back and do differently?
'Kick the penalty against England in the 1991 Rugby World Cup semifinal' [England won 9-6].

Who's the greatest golfer ever?
'Tiger Woods.'

What are your favourite courses?
Gullane, Turnberry, and Loch Lomond

Putting nationalism aside, wouldn't it be fair if the 2009 Ryder Cup went to Wales? Scotland is, after all, widely recognised as the home of golf and the Welsh could benefit from the golf association much more than Scotland.
'I am afraid sentiment on this scale must be put to one side. I am only interested in seeing Scotland win the right to host the 2009 Ryder Cup and I believe as a nation we could benefit as much (if not more) as Wales should Scotland get awarded the Ryder Cup. Tourism is one of the most important industries in Scotland and as the home of golf, golf tourism is a significant part of this. Anything we can do to bring additional economic benefits to Scotland - (and I really believe hosting the Ryder Cup will do that) should be embraced.

'Furthermore, as part of our Ryder Cup bid, we have pledged to introduce every child to the game of golf by the time they are nine years old, so this will bring tremendous benefits to the game of golf in Scotland.'

Is there anyone you've played rugby against who you wouldn't now share a drink with?
'No one I can think of and even if I could I doubt that would apply because life is too short.'

Will the rest of your life, post retirement from rugby, be an anti-climax?
'Rugby has given me a wonderful opportunity to experience different cultures and meet many friends from around the world. I couldn't imagine not taking advantage of those experiences and hence, if anything, the rest of my life offers even greater excitement than my rugby days.'

Which three people (from any walk of life) would make up your perfect golfing fourball?
Nelson Mandela, Neil Armstrong and Tiger Woods.'

Where do you usually play your golf?
'Gullane, and anywhere else that will have me.'

What do you think of Scotland's chances to host the Ryder Cup and is Gleneagles your favourite course to land the competition?
'I think Scotland has an excellent chance and all four venues present strong credentials to host the competition. Ultimately it is the choice of the PGA and the Ryder Cup Committee to decide the venue.'

What should Scotland be doing to attract more golfing visitors?
'We should be shouting from the rooftops explaining what wonderful courses and hospitality we have. We should recognise that golf is a hugely popular and global game and Scotland as the home of golf is revered all around the world, far from being shy of this conception we should maximise it to the hilt.'

What is the worst shot you have ever played?
'For those that know Gullane I once picked my drive from the first tee on the No 1 course off the grass in front of the main clubhouse. On a normal day this would seem to be impossible but a number of years ago I somehow contrived to manage it.'

What is your best sporting moment; with and without a golf club?
'Grand Slam 1990 and my first round on the Old Course age 14 holing a four foot putt on the 18th to go round in 99.'

When will Scotland find a kicker of the calibre of Neil Jenkins or yourself?
'Hopefully soon! (Sorry Kenny and Hodgey).'

Given the strengths of the English, will Scotland regain the Calcutta Cup in the foreseeable future?
'It may take 10 years but I am sure it will be worth the wait when it is achieved.'

©    4 - FEBRUARY 2002

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