It's never too early totalk about the next Ryder Cup.
At least that's the thought of organizers of the next three Ryder Cup Matches- in 2006 at the K-Club in Ireland, 2008 at Valhalla Golf Club inLouisville, Ky., and 2010 at the Celtic Manor in Wales.
The Wales and the Irish Tourism Boards sent representatives to the 2004Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills Country Club with a long to-do list. Not only didthey make the long trek to Michigan to promote themselves as viable golfdestinations, they were given inside access to learn how to run a successfultournament of their own. Neither has ever hosted before, or held many othermajor sporting events for that matter.
The growing popularity of the Ryder Cup demands years of preparation by the host site, mostly on logistics of Super Bowl magnitude.
"We are here to learn how to cater for large crowds and a large mediapresence," said John O'Donoghue, Ireland's minister of Art, Sport andTourism. "And how to organize a course for crowds and the whole experiencefor hosting. It's mainly for logistics. We will try to showcase our bestwhen it's our turn."
Rob Holt, manager for Ryder Cup Wales, also said visiting Detroit wasparamount to the Ryder Cup in Wales.
"The event continues to grow and the logistics evolve at each," heindicated. "It is vital that we keep pace with the scale of the event if weare to ensure 2010 is a success. Key lessons for us were the smoothoperation of the park and ride systems, the unobtrusive, but successful,security arrangements and the thirst for official Ryder Cup merchandise.That is not to say that we did not notice some things which might beimproved, like more on course information for spectators on the progress inmatches."
Given the volume of fans - more than 40,000 fans per day - and the amount of security involved, this year's Ryder Cup was considered a winner, unless you're an American.
The Yanks were mauled by the Europeans, 18 ½ to 9 ½, the worst U.S. lossin the history of the event. You can bet fans at the next three sites aresure to treated to a much better showing. Here's a look:
Ireland might possibly turn out to be the most popular host site in Ryder Cup history. Already one of the world's most popular golf destinations, Ireland boasts some of the world's premier links courses, including Royal County Down. This alone should attract a number of American tourists and celebrities.
"Some commentaries say that the whole island of Ireland might be a golfcourse," O'Donoghue said.
The K-Club in Kildare, owned by Michael Smurfit, has hosted the SmurfitEuropean Open since 1995. The 7,337-yard North course, an Arnold Palmerdesign, will hold the Ryder Cup. The South course, another Palmer design, isconsidered to be "an inland links" and radically different from thefirst.
While the K-Club is one of the toughest tee times in golf, it's theIrish cheer many golf fans will grow to love when visiting the EmeraldIsle.
"The K-Club is an exquisite venue, one of the finest clubs in the world," O'Donoghue said. "The facilities are world class. We want to put on an enormous show. We know how to throw a party. The 19th green might make more memories than the first 18."
This 7,195-yard Jack Nicklaus design 20 minutes east of Louisville has quite a history of tournament golf, despite opening in just 1986. The 2000 PGA Championship, the season's fourth major, and the 2004 Senior PGA Championship, a Champions' Tour major, have already visited this pseudo links design that rolls through 486 acres of rural land.
The course, owned and operated by the PGA of America, will certainly stay in the PGA's championship rota for years to come if all goes well in2006.
Midwest golf fans will be thrilled to know that the Ryder Cup will be within driving distance for years to come. After Louisville, the 2012 Ryder Cup will visit Chicago and Medinah Country Club and in 2016, Hazletine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., gets its turn.
Wales doesn't have the notoriety of Ireland or Scotland when it comes to links golf, so the Tourism Board is working extra hours to get the word out about its golf. Wales does feature some of the world's best links courses -Royal Porthcawl, Royal St. David's and Pennard.
"We have to maximize the opportunities hosting this event gives us - in the run up to 2010 and following the event itself," said Claire Saunders, a marketing manager with the Tourism Board. "We have a unique opportunity now to raise the profile of Wales as both a golfing and holiday destination, and we are already taking full advantage of that opportunity, both in the UK and overseas. We are already seeing an increase in visitors from overseas to experience Wales' golfing product. The majority of them are aware of the fact that Wales will host the 2010 event."
There's no doubt the opulence of the Celtic Manor's 400-room, five-star hotel perched atop a hillside helped to land golf's biggest event. But thegolf course needs some work first.
Players in the Wales Open often complained about the difficulty to walk Celtic Manor's Wentwood Hills, which prompted major changes that should becomplete by 2006.
The current holes four through 12 along the Usk River will remain untouched from the original Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design in 1999. Two others are in the midst of a redesign and seven holes will be completely new on new land, all built in the Usk Valley. A new clubhouse will be created specifically for the Ryder Cup.
The resort's original course, the par-69 Roman Road, opened in 1995,was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., who added the par-59 Cobra Woods short course in 1996.
"The Ryder Cup is much more than a three-day event at the Celtic Manor,"Holt said. "It is a fantastic opportunity to showcase all that is good about Wales."
November 27, 2004