Ballesterospoised for Ryder job

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Seve Ballesteros's appointment as captain of the European Ryder Cup team is expected to be confirmed on Thursday. A recommendation from the PGA European Tour tournament committee, under the chairmanship of Mark James, will go before the Ryder Cup committee at Wentworth.

Since Bernard Gallacher announced his intention to relinquish the post, Ballesteros has been the natural front runner, not least because his home country hosts the next match against the United States, at Valderrama in southern Spain in September, 1997.

The only doubt surrounding Ballesteros is whether he considers the captaincy to come a match too soon. He celebrates his 39th birthday in April, two days before the start of the Masters in Augusta. Plagued by persistent back trouble and inconsistent form - he has not won a major title for eight years - he has been on a five month sabbatical since Europe regained the Ryder Cup at Oak Hill, Rochester last September.

The Spaniard returns to championship golf in the Moroccan Open in Rabat in two weeks' time and if he has a successful season he is unlikely to relish the role of non-playing captain against the Americans. Tom Kite, already chosen as leader of the US team, said he had not ruled out the possibility of being a playing captain.

Meanwhile, Gallacher and Manuel Ballesteros, Seve's elder brother, could find themselves playing in a seniors Ryder Cup by the year 2000. The European Seniors Tour has been having talks with the US PGA on the question of staging a biennial match between teams of professionals aged 50 and over.

"We plan to have further discussions in America in April," Sandy Jones, executive director of the PGA, said. "By the turn of the century we could be staging matches in the image of the regular tours."

Yesterday the fledgling European Seniors Tour announced its schedule for the year with an increase in events from 11 to 13 and a rise in prize- money of pounds 400,000 to pounds 1,445,000.

The Tour, which was created in 1989, has received an end of season boost with The Player Championship at the Buckinghamshire Club, Denham, in October. The tournament will be promoted and sponsored by the Gary Player Group of companies at a course designed by John Jacobs. Player, who has won nine major championships and who still competes in the Open, intends to play at The Buckinghamshire. During his career he has travelled 10 million miles and has spent a total of three years travelling in planes.

"The Player Championship will be the Seniors' answer to the Volvo Masters," Andy Stubbs, managing director of the Seniors Tour, said. "It will have places only for the best." Stubbs said his goal is to expand the circuit to 25 tournaments and he expected more Americans to become involved.

Although the Tour boasts new events, it has lost the Forte Open, which last year attracted 12,000 people to Sunningdale, following the company's takeover over by Granada. However, Gerry Robinson, winner in the battle with Rocco Forte, is a keen golfer and Stubbs said: "We're hoping he'll talk to us.''

1996 EUROPEAN SENIORS TOUR SCHEDULE: 10-12 May: Oger Tours Turkish Open, Antalya, Turkey. 31-2: De Vere Hotels Classic, Belton Woods. 7-9 June: Jersey Open, La Moye; 14-16: Castle Royle European Classic, Castle Royle. 28-30: Ryder Collingtree Classic, Collingtree Park. 12-14 July: Stella Open, Frankfurt. 25-28 Seniors British Open, Royal Portrush; August: 1- 3 Lawrence Batley Seniors, Fixby. 16-18 Northern Electric Seniors, Slaley Hall. 22-25 Belfry PGA Seniors, The Belfry. 6-8 September: Scottish Seniors Open, tba; 4-6 October: Motor City Classic, The Warwickshire. 18-20 The Players' Championship, The Buckinghamshire.