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Wales pitches in for Ryder Cup
Andy Farrell, The Independent, 20 October 2000
Catherine Zeta Jones will do a photocall. The Manic Street
Preachers have been on the phone asking how they can help. Support for the
Welsh bid to stage the 2009 Ryder Cup has been pouring in from all directions.
Brian Huggett, the 1977 captain, and the rugby legends Gareth Edwards, Gareth
Davies and Jonathan Davies are among those heavily involved. "I have never
known a response like it," said Tony Lewis, the bid chairman. "The Rugby World
Cup was great but everyone wants to be involved in this."
Lewis, the former England cricket captain and BBC
commentator, has swapped an office overlooking Lord's his two-year term
as president of MCC has just finished for another one beside one of the
54 holes at Celtic Manor. The resort is at the centre of the Welsh bid to stage
the 2009 match, but Lewis's job is to convince the Ryder Cup Committee that the
application is about more than one man's desire to host the event.
Terry Matthews made his money in Canada from electronics,
but was born just outside Newport. He returned to buy a maternity home and
enough land by the M4 to build a 400-room five-star hotel and three golf
courses. The resort hosted the Wales Open in June and the event is guaranteed
to be on the European Tour for five years at a cost of £10m, with another
five years if Celtic Manor gets the Ryder Cup.
Wary of the image that someone can "buy" the Ryder Cup, the
Professional Golfers' Association and the European Tour joint guardians
of the event now insist on applications by country. Bids are due in by
the end of the month with the winner announced next January.
Ireland, the hosts of the 2005 match, expect to double
their golfing tourists in the next five years then there is the value of
the match itself. The economic benefit to Spain of the Valderrama match in 1997
was £52m. That figure is expected to reach £100m for Ireland in
Scotland is the clear front-runner with five quality venues
vying for the match, in the Old Course at St Andrews, Carnoustie, Turnberry,
Gleneagles and Loch Lomond. Muirfield, the 1973 venue, is also interested. The
bid has formidable backing from the Scottish Executive, the Scottish Tourist
Board and the Bank of Scotland.
Lewis said: "This really is a bid for Wales. Staging the
Ryder Cup for the first time would bring enormous benefits." Rhodri Morgan, the
First Secretary for Wales, signed the application and appointed Lewis, a former
chairman of the Wales Tourist Board, to head the campaign. That has meant
bringing together bodies such as the Sports Council for Wales, the Welsh Golf
Union and the PGA Welsh Region.
This is a pioneering concept for the game in Britain. The
men's and women's unions, currently housed separately at Celtic Manor, are
considering merging so the game can benefit from European Union funding. "We
can improve facilities for clubs and improve access by opening up starter
centres and pitch-and-putt courses. Not many children under the age of 14 have
access to the game but for those over 15, more people play golf in Wales than
rugby," Lewis said.
There are plans to stage events on the women's, Seniors and
MasterCard tours, and even an ambitious idea for Royal Porthcawl to stage the
Open, so giving Wales and the west of England a first opportunity to be part of
the oldest championship of all.
Technically, the bid has much to recommend it, with only
one major drawback the Wentworth Hills course itself. Opened less than
two years ago, it will need further funding from Matthews to make it suitable
for the match. Eight significant changes will be made following consultation
with European Tour after the Wales Open. The main problem is in getting
everyone back up a substantial hill towards the end of the course, especially
with 36 holes a day, and the multitude of sidehill lies. more Ryder Cup News more
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