Celtic Manor was once a nursing home where its current billionaire owner, Sir Terence Matthews, was born 58 years ago. Matthews, the ultimate local boy made good, turned the old house into a hotel in 1982 and a further £120m later has a resort boasting a new five-star, 400-bedroom hotel and three golf courses.
It is here, just off the M4 at Newport, that the 2010 Ryder Cup will be staged. The expected decision was confirmed yesterday by the European Ryder Cup Board with Wales' main rival in the lengthy bidding process, Scotland, being awarded the 2014 match, which will be played at Gleneagles. Slaley Hall, representing the North-East of England, was never seriously in the running given all but two home matches have previously been staged in England.
The typical British compromise was extended by the announcement that the subsequent four matches, from 2018 to 2030, will all be staged on the continent of Europe. The only time the match has moved out of Britain to date was to Valderrama in Spain in 1997. The 2006 match will be played at the K Club in Ireland.
"This is a great moment for Wales," Matthews said, "and a huge opportunity for golf. We are adding a new nation to the golfing premier league. We will live up to the confidence shown in us by continuing to deliver our commitments." As much as a contest between the competing countries, the bidding process also became a battle of wills between the two bodies which make up the Ryder Cup joint venture, the European Tour and the Professional Golfers' Association, and their two Scottish chiefs, Ken Schofield and Sandy Jones. Following next year's postponed match at The Belfry, the joint venture will be re-structured with a place in the Board for the PGA of Europe but with the European Tour taking a "managing role".
Matthews, who made his fortune in electronics and telecommunications firms in Canada, is the sort of multi-millionaire with which the European Tour likes to do business. In promising to support the Wales Open for a minimum of 10 years, Matthews has followed the same path as Jaime Patino at Valderrama and Michael Smurfit at the K Club in securing the biggest prize in golf.
Schofield said bluntly: "We are in the position of having to lean on our strongest financial supporters in the likes of Jimmy Patino, Michael Smurfit and Terry Matthews. The consistency of support from traditional sponsors is always uppermost in our minds." Gleneagles, former home of the Scottish Open, currently hosts the Scottish PGA and is owned by Diageo, the parent company of United Distillers, long-term supporters of the Tour and former sponsors of the Ryder Cup through their Johnnie Walker brand.
Under the present joint venture agreement, signed in 1991, the selection of what was originally the 2009 match was in the hands of the PGA. But Schofield took hold of the process by publicly declaring his support for Celtic Manor in May. "Ken was premature in making that announcement," said Jones, "but after I had visited all the sites, I proposed the two-match solution because both bids were of such high quality. To the PGA, it was not an issue who got 2010 and who got 2014."
It was always a fatuous question whether Wales, who have never staged the Ryder Cup, or Scotland, where the 1973 match was played at Muirfield, was more deserving. When the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Executive got involved, matters seemed to escalate.
The Scottish bid appeared to suffer from a lack of leadership and the notion that they, as the "home of golf", could not lose. They also persisted with a multi-course bid featuring Loch Lomond, Carnoustie and Turnberry, as well as Gleneagles.
In Wales, the campaign was skilfully co-ordinated by Tony Lewis, the former England cricket captain and former chairman of the Wales Tourist Board. They were also the first to put in place lasting initiatives for the development of the game, as called for by the PGA's original bidding document.
But their biggest coup was to overcome the lack of an appropriate golf course. The current Wentworth Hills course is to have seven holes rebuilt in the Usk Valley, along with a new clubhouse. The new layout should be ready for the 2004 Wales Open. Otherwise, the infrastructure is already in place. "In Wales we met or exceeded every single technical requirement for the Ryder Cup," Lewis said. "Nobody can better us for access, parking, hotel accommodation, spectator capacity and event management."
There were murmurings of discontent from the Scottish Executive yesterday but presumably the cut and thrust of politics had not prepared them for taking on such a robust competitor as Schofield. "Today, Scotland are winners as are Wales and Europe," Schofield said. "Their beef, if they have a beef, is that they will get the Ryder Cup four years later than they might have wanted."
Scotland's First Minister, Henry McLeish, said: "I am not sure I feel like a winner today but at least the Ryder Cup is coming to Scotland. It is not coming when we wanted it, but it is coming. We will have to be patient but when the time comes Scotland will remind the world that 'the home of golf' is more than a name tag."Reuse content