Strathearn is the centre of the sporting world as the “Year to Go” celebrations roll out for the 2014 Ryder Cup.
Shortly after noon on Monday the 1927 steam locomotive “Scots Guardsman” puffed its way into a positively balmy Gleneagles Station, decanting VIP passengers led by First Minister Alex Salmond, Ryder Cup dignitaries from both sides of the Atlantic and a posse of celebrity ambassadors from the world of film, football, the catwalk and music.
But centre stage were the rival Ryder Cup captains Paul McGinley and Tom Watson.
Guests were transported from Edinburgh’s Waverley Station through the countryside in first class Pullman carriages before being greeted by a Perth and Kinross Council delegation led by Provost Liz Grant as Crieff High School’s pipe band played “Scotland the Brave.”
They were then ferried to the hotel in a fleet of Docherty’s buses.
European team skipper McGinley, who has been charged with emulating Euro wins at Celtic Manor and Medinah, commented: “The Ryder Cup is an iconic event in the world’s sporting calendar and what better way to kick it off than to arrive into Gleneagles Station on an iconic steam train built in 1927, the year of the first Ryder Cup itself.
“There is a tremendous excitement already around The Ryder Cup with a year to go – you can only imagine what it will be like when we get to next September.”
US rival and golfing legend Watson said: “I am very grateful for the opportunity to be captain in Scotland, a place that has been very special to me during my career. It’s hard to believe that it was nearly 20 years ago that I enjoyed one of the most thrilling experiences in my career in being captain in 1993.
“Now the clock is ticking down quickly for us in preparing for golf’s grandest spectacle at Gleneagles. We anticipate a tremendous match and September 2014 can’t get here soon enough.”
Both captains joined the First Minister as a commemorative quarried flagstone was unveiled, marking improvement works at Gleneagles station and investment in improving the transport infrastructure in the area.
The VIPs, including footballers Alan Hansen and Ruud Gullit, actor James Nesbitt, Marvin Humes of pop group JLS and model Jody Kidd and a media pack lured from across the continent and the USA, were forging a path to the hotel which will be used by spectators attending the sell-out tournament this time next year.
The captains were joined on the PGA Centenary Course by 16 lucky junior golfers representing the uniquely successful ClubGolf programme, including Michael Brodie of Strathmore Golf Club, as they experienced a once in a lifetime chance to play with the captains as part of a special event marking the legacy of The 2014 Ryder Cup.
Celebrations continued on into the evening, as 1,150 people joined McGinley and Watson at Perth Concert Hall for ‘An Audience with The Ryder Cup Captains.’
Focused around an up-close-and-personal Q&A session hosted by Dougie Donnelly, the evening also offered fans, via Twitter, the chance to quiz the captains on a wide range of topics ahead of next year’s event. The audience also enjoyed entertainment from local comedian Fred MacAulay and Scottish band Hue and Cry.
On Tuesday, Gleneagles hosted a media event which was beamed live around the globe, after the famous Ryder Cup trophy paid a visit with the captains to the Community School of Auchterarder.