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Thursday, 18 July, 2002, 09:01 GMT 10:01 UK
Open chips in to Scottish economy
Muirfield
Muirfield last hosted the Open a decade ago
Scotland is teeing up for a multi-million pound economic windfall from the 131st Open Championship.

Tourism bosses are also relishing the opportunity to flaunt the country's "unrivalled" attributes as a golfing destination to a worldwide audience.

The event got under way on Thursday at the Muirfield course in East Lothian, where England's Peter Baker struck the first shot at 0700 BST.


It is a wonderful opportunity to showcase Scotland to the world

Neen Kelly
VisitScotland
American Tiger Woods started as the bookies' favourite to lift the coveted Claret Jug.

It is estimated that the top names on show will attract a crowd of between 150,000 and 180,000 visitors over the four days of the tournament.

East Lothian Council has predicted that the event will bring 15m into the area.

Neen Kelly, of tourism body VisitScotland, predicted that the country as a whole would benefit to the tune of 35m.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club, which organises the Open, has gone event further in its estimates.

Broadcasting deals

"The Open is extremely important to Scotland because it's our biggest sporting event, bringing in over 70m to the economy," said a spokesman for the R&A.

"It is still recognised as the most prestigious golfing tournament the world over. It is the number one event."

The R&A pays 8m to stage the event, but said much of this outlay had been recouped through sponsorship and broadcasting deals.

Paul Lawrie
Scotland's Paul Lawrie is a former Open winner
It is estimated that the event will be seen by 400 million people on television.

Neen Kelly said Scotland was catching up with other countries, such as Ireland, when it came to golf tourism.

"We have got a budget to promote Scotland and reinforce ourselves as the home of golf and an unrivalled golf destination to a global audience.

"It is a wonderful opportunity to showcase Scotland to the world," she said.

East Lothian Council leader Norman Murray said there was an "absolutely fantastic" atmosphere as the event got under way on Thursday.

Prize fund

He also predicted that the area's transport infrastructure could cope with the influx of visitors, as it did when the course last hosted the tournament in 1992.

The first Open was staged on a 12-hole course at Prestwick in Ayrshire in 1860.

Eight players competed in an event which did not have a prize fund - in stark contract to the 3.8m purse on offer for the 156 golfers taking part this year.

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