While the excitement about the Ryder Cup, which will begin on Friday in Straffan, Ireland, is evidently at fever pitch, there's already plenty of interest here in the Ryder Cup of 2010. Wales will play host to its first Ryder Cup then, at the Celtic Manor Resort here.
Preparations are moving quickly. Course superintendent Jim McKenzie showed off the course the other day on this 1,400-acre property. The Ryder Cup course, to be sure, is still under construction.
It will include nine renovated holes from an original layout called Wentwood Hills and nine new holes. The original course wasn't built to be host to a Ryder Cup or to test many of the game's top players.
However, the room to make changes, to provide accommodations for players and officials and to create that oft-heard necessity -- infrastructure -- was available. The Ryder Cup is so big today that 7,000 people, including staff and volunteers, will work the event in 2010. That's for an event in which only 24 players compete.
Even with the space available here, the PGA European Tour wouldn't have awarded the Ryder Cup to Celtic Manor if owner Terry Matthews weren't willing to commit to it. Matthews was born in a building on the property that was then a maternity hospital. He holds Welsh and Canadian citizenship. Matthews bought the building in 1980, when it was a 17-room boutique hotel.
Matthews, a successful businessman, committed £16-million ($33.9-million) to the development alone. Celtic Manor plays host to the Wales Open, a fixture on the European Tour. The Ryder Cup course will be host to the Wales Open next June and through 2014.
Matthews lives in Ottawa and owns the Marshes course and the Brook Street Hotel there. His son, Dylan, lives here and is the resort's chief executive. (He said his father still hopes to bring a European Tour event to the Marshes. Attempts have been made, but nothing has yet happened.)
What is happening here is the first purpose-built complex to be host to the Ryder Cup. Starting on Monday, it will become the focal point of European interest in the Ryder Cup. That's because Celtic Manor will play host to the next Ryder Cup in Europe.
It would be interesting to see the Ryder Cup on an Irish links such as Royal Porthcawl or Ballybunion, but the event is such big business today that this will never happen. Meanwhile, Matthews has paid millions of pounds to be host to the event, so that the European Tour makes heaps of money from the competition.
Given these conditions, a purpose-built course makes sound business sense. McKenzie, the superintendent, stood to the left of the par-four 16th hole and pointed to a hillside. A viewing platform will be built high above the hole. Similar hospitality platforms will also be built on the hillside to the left of the par-three 17th and par-five 18th. They'll hold up to 8,000 people, while the hills below will take up to 15,000 each.
Construction on the new holes will be completed by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, there's this week. Ian Woosnam, a Welshman and the winner of the 1991 Masters, is the captain of the 2006 Ryder Cup European team.
The Welsh want to start the long run-up to the Ryder Cup of 2010 with a European win. Signs everywhere point to the 2010 event already; they were seen on many points around the Royal Porthcawl links the other day. Incidentally, Marlene Streit, the only Canadian member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, won the 1953 British Ladies Amateur at Porthcawl.
Welsh clubs have held many significant events since, including the 1995 Walker Cup at Porthcawl. The club has also held six British (men's) Amateurs, or, as the tournament is called here, the Amateur.
Now it's time for the Ryder Cup in Ireland. One thing is clear: The Welsh can't wait. They can't wait for what might happen this week under Woosnam's guidance, and for what will happen here four years from now.