Wales pitches in for Ryder Cup

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."

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 2005.

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.

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