Golf: Welsh embark on an odyssey for 2001

Click to follow
ROBERT TRENT JONES Snr, who today expects to hear that Valderrama, the course he designed in southern Spain, will be honoured with the 1997 Ryder Cup, is currently working on a layout in the land of his fathers that he thinks will be every yard as good, writes Tim Glover from Newport.

Trent Jones, who is 87, worked on Valderrama for Jaime Ortiz-Patino, the Bolivian billionaire, and he believes the course will get the vote when the Ryder Cup committee meets at Wentworth, for one good reason. 'Patino is a very rich man and rich men usually get what they want,' Trent Jones said.

The same might be said of Trent Jones's latest employer, Terry Matthews, a Welshman whose fortune is estimated at pounds 850m, making him the 10th richest man in Britain. Trent Jones's brief has been to build a championship course at the Celtic Manor Hotel Golf and Country Club near Newport. 'Because of the undulations of the land and the views it offers it could be one of the great courses in the world,' Trent Jones, who has designed 700 layouts, said.

Matthews, who has made his money in telecommunications, has taken 10 years to get planning approval and he has ambitious plans for the championship course which is expected to open in June next year. The European Tour has an English Open, a Scottish Open and an Irish Open and by 1996 Celtic Manor could be host to a Welsh Open. Wales was deprived of a notable professional tournament when Epson, the Japanese sponsor, pulled out of the Grand Prix at Chepstow four years ago.

Ian Woosnam, the club's touring professional, thinks the course, Trent Jones's first in Wales, would be suitable to stage a Ryder Cup. After Spain in 1997 Europe are hosts again in 2001. Matthews wants to name his project after the Prince of Wales but that will require further negotiations.

Jones, whose father and grandfather came from Rhyl, is also designing a shorter course at Celtic Manor as part of a pounds 50m development. The scheme includes a 'state of the art' Ian Woosnam golf academy, an international equestrian centre and a tennis complex. The Welsh Golfing Union has relocated its headquarters next to the new clubhouse.

There is one aspect that Matthews' money has no influence on whatsoever - the weather. When Trent Jones first saw the land he had to be rescued from a vehicle which became bogged down in the mud. The seeding of the course was delayed by atrocious weather and yesterday, the seeding ceremony was blighted by torrential rain.