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2009 Ryder Cup - Welsh bid
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Wales pins its latest tourism drive to the Ryder Cup

A billionaire's dream could attract golf's transatlantic contest - and big economic benefits

John Cassy, The Guardian, 27 October 2000

A consortium fronted by former England cricketer Tony Lewis and backed by the Welsh Development Agency will submit a bid tomorrow to the Professional Golfers Association, the sport's governing body, to host the Ryder Cup in Wales in 2009. The tournament between Europe and America takes place once every two years.

If the Welsh bid wins, the consortium believes the publicity and income generated by the appearance of the likes of Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood and Serge Garcia at the lavishly constructed complex would place Wales firmly on the golfing map and give a much-needed economic boost to the principality.

At the centre of the bid is an unusual regeneration project: the Celtic Manor leisure complex. Overlooking the remnants of Wales' industrial heartland at the end of the M4 motorway near Newport, this leisure centre has been built by Terry Matthews, the electronics billionaire. "There is little doubt that hosting the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor would greatly enhance the profile of Wales internationally and assist in encouraging overseas firms to invest in Wales," said Sir David Rowe Beddoe, chairman of the WDA.

The economic case for staging the tournament is compelling. The last time Europe hosted the Ryder Cup was in 1997 at Valderrama, Spain, and the local impact was significant. According to the PGA, the immediate economic benefit to Spain was £52.2m. Spectators spent £33.5m in the Andalucia region plus £8.5m in other parts of Spain. More than 70% of spectator spend went into the local economy rather than just the event. Around £11m was spent on accommodation and £10m on flights. Asked to rate the importance of the Ryder Cup to the local economy, local businesses awarded it 4.65 out of a possible 5.

The 2005 Ryder Cup is being held in Ireland and the local minister for tourism, sport and recreation believes it will double the number of golf tourists to the country over the next five years. In television terms only football's world cup attracts more viewers, according to the Welsh camp.

Mr Matthews earned his billion working in Canada but is Welsh to the core. He was born on the hills that surround the course and is determined that the world's top players will grace its greens. Celtic Manor has more than 400 hotel bedrooms and extensive conference facilities. More than 40,000 people attended the recent Welsh Open at the course.

The Welsh bid has an unlikely champion in Spain's Seve Ballesteros: "[The Ryder Cup] should move around Europe and go to different countries, and it's never been in Wales, so why not?" Actress Catherine Zeta Jones and rock band Manic Street Preachers have offered to help.

The Wales bid is being advised by World Sport Group, the company that brought the cricket world cup to England. Consultant Mair Stratton says that the potential impact a Ryder Cup in Newport would have on Welsh golf could be the defining factor.

"The right to host the tournament is not just about putting on the best show, it's largely to do with how a Ryder Cup would help development of the sport in the region.We believe we can build a very strong case around the potential benefits for Welsh golf."

However, the Welsh consortium must negotiate some tricky bunkers. Rival bids are being lodged by Scotland, Slaley Hall in Newcastle, a course in Sweden and the PGA's own course at Caldas near Barcelona. The greatest competition is likely to come from a Scotland bid being co-ordinated by Glen Kirton, the man who masterminded the Euro 96 football tournament, and Sweden, which has experienced a surge in interest in the sport.

A decision is expected in January. If the Wales bid wins, they might even hear the roar of the Welsh dragon from the 19th hole at St Andrews.

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