GOLF; Wales on course for Ryder Cup ring

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The Independent Online
THERE HAVE been Irish Opens, English Opens and Scottish Opens - and yesterday Wales threw its hat into the ring with an announcement that serves as a stepping-stone towards hosting the Ryder Cup. Celtic Manor, one of the largest golf developments in Europe, will stage the Welsh Open as an addition to the European tour from the year 2000.

It is part of the grand design of Terry Matthews, who has invested pounds 100m, less than a tenth of his fortune, in a 1,400-acre resort near Newport.

The championship, which will have a prize fund of pounds 750,000 in its first year, will be played on the Wentwood Hills course, opened yesterday by Ian Woosnam and Mark James. Wentwood Hills, the third course to have been built at Celtic Manor was designed by Robert Trent-Jones Jnr, a member of an American dynasty responsible for courses all over the world. It is not easy keeping up with the Joneses, and Junior's brief for Wentwood Hills was to design a championship layout with no expense spared.

At 7,450 yards, and with more lakes than Switzerland, Woosnam and James found it a daunting task. James, who will captain Europe's Ryder Cup team at Brookline, near Boston, in September, compared it favourably with the K Club near Dublin, which has been awarded the Ryder Cup in 2005. "It's easily good enough to host any level of golf," James said. "It's long and tough and is a top quality course. It already looks mature."

Matthews, who was born at Celtic Manor when the house was a maternity hospital, is bidding to host the Ryder Cup, the biennial classic between the professionals of Europe and the US, at the earliest possible opportunity - 2009. "If we don't get it then we'll try again," the electronics whiz- kid said. "I'm not going away."