The Ryder Cup’s Welsh legacy

, who has been at Celtic Manor throughout the Ryder Cup, details the legacy that the great tournament will leave behind in Newport

Celtic Manor, home to so much drama since Friday, will leave a lasting legacy in Newport. Image: lhourahane via Flickr Creative Commons

Celtic Manor, home to so much drama since Friday, will leave a lasting legacy in Newport. Image: lhourahane via Flickr Creative Commons

So that’s it. Europe have triumphed over the United States, Miguel Angel Jimenez has grown the economy of Cuba that little bit more and Graeme McDowell will now forever be linked with the last week or so.  But for Wales, the legacy of hosting the world’s biggest golfing event will be far greater and far reaching.

The atmosphere generated on the Twenty Ten Course was something very special indeed. The land of song provided the most passionate Ryder Cup crowd I have witnessed, which is saying something considering I had the privilege of being at the K Club in 2006 and The Belfry in 2002. Every tee shot, approach,  holed or missed putt was audibly relayed round the course and when the Europeans found some form in session three, it was the crowd who were proving to be the best wildcard pick imaginable, roaring them onto victory; bear in mind that during this week they have been locked out, witnessed weather more akin to a hurricane than a golf tournament and had to endure spending £5 for a pint of Beer in the tented village – their resilience has been just as astounding as Team Europe.

As for the course, it too has passed with flying colours, as it should have. The Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor was built solely to stage this tournament, but that only tells half the story. Way back in 2001, when Celtic Manor was awarded the honour of staging the 38th Ryder Cup matches,  the course, transport and logistical details were not there. They had a course that was of European Tour standard in the now defunct Wentwood Hills, of which holes 6-13 and redesigned 16th were a part of. While it was a fantastic test of golf, the final five holes climbed upwards out the valley and finished with a driving range as its backdrop – not exactly a fitting climax to the worlds greatest golf tournament. Another huge problem was that on the closing holes, spectators had no way seeing what was going on as, many of the greens are raised up and they would be watching from below and the course had no room to place grandstands.

Sir Terry Matthews, a man born in the very place where the hotel now resides and who made his billions in the telecoms industry, fathered the development of Celtic Manor. His dream was the bring the Ryder Cup to Wales and he has not held back in throwing money at a project that he was determined to see through, spending £16 million in order to get the results he desired; The re-design of the Wentwood Hills course and it’s rebirth as the Twenty Ten has been spectacular and Ross McMurray as chief architect should take much of the credit too.  The final three holes have been a match play dream – the 18th in particular was a stunning signature on a course that was coveted and praised by both teams. Even to the last day it was showing its teeth, stopping Rory Mcilroy in his tracks as he looked to beat out Stewart Cink on the final green, the Northern Irishman failing to emerge from a pot bunker put in to punish anyway wayward approach.  The decision to build the final three holes onto the side of the valley gave up to thirty thousand people panoramic views of the action on Monday was a master-stroke and right down to how much they spent on drainage, Sir Terry and McMurray got it spot on.

The Ryder Cup has also breathed life into the local area in particular. In 2006, the event pumped 143 million Euros into the local economy of Kildare – the figure for Celtic Manor, according to tournament organisers, is closer to £70m. The overall benefit of the trophy without doubt though will be the City of Newport, whose redevelopment has coincided with the Ryder Cup coming to town. An industrial town for much of the 20th Century and hit hard by the closure of Llanwern Steel Works, its main employer located at the edge of the city, which closed in 2004 to a tune of over twenty thousand jobs. Newport too has struggled with an image of being a city plagued by anti-social behaviour issues and small town mentality. Over the last ten years, the city has been improved beyond recognition, all due to the Ryder Cup, much of the old docking facilities and factories that lay derelict for so many years disappeared from the side of the River Usk near the city centre and have been replaced by upmarket housing. The university has a brand new £35 million campus on the opposite bank, the sixties concrete heart of the centre has been replaced and given a modern facelift. This is not even taking into account the regeneration of school facilities, the improvement of transport links for the City, including a new station, relief road and expansion of the M4 and the many thousands of jobs that have arrived with the building work carried out, which has gone a considerable distance to softening the blow of the closure of Llanwern. All the work done has gone in trying to shake of all the old misconceptions of Newport – the work has undoubtedly benefited its residents, regardless of whether the critics agree or not.

For Welsh golf too, the impact has only been positive. The Celtic Manor has provided Wales with one of the greatest golf courses in the world, which is likely to be visited by golfing tourists far and wide, as well as raising the profile of classic courses of Nefyn, Royal Porthcawl (which Tiger will remember well), St Pierre and Harlech. Beyond that, Wales might finally have a star in the making in Porthcawl’s Rhys Davies, employed as Colin Montgomerie’s buggy driver this week and is blessed with a million dolloar putting stroke and who is the current course record holder round The Twenty Ten with a 62. For many youngsters as well, watching the world’s best on their doorstep will inspire them to pick up the game  – coincidentally, Celtic Manor has world class practice facilities and an academy that is used by both male and female junior national squads, which have been used since the Celtic opened in 1995 (I can count myself as one them).

Whether or not the Ryder Cup returns to Wales is a decision for sometime the future, but it if it does, you can guarantee that it will be ready and its inhabitants praying for a little less rain. Here’s to hoping.

One comment

  1. 11 Oct ’10 at 3:50 am

    Zooport more like...

    Anyone who has actually visited Newport will realise that the positive effect the Ryder Cup’s had on Newport is very very little – if anything it’s been the complete opposite. It’s still a shit hole.

    The Ryder Cup inspired a regeneration to the City centre that the city could not afford.

    Speaking as someone who lives less than 20 minutes from Newport, I remember five or so years ago when we found out that the Ryder Cup was coming. We were promised a total regeneration of Newport – a Debenhams, a 4 star hotel etc. We thought they were going to do for Newport, what they did for Cardiff (St Davids 2, the bay etc).

    To a lot of York students this may sound a little silly – how’s a Debenhams going to change a city? But for us, it was a sign that someone was willing to invest in us – it meant jobs and that more people would spend money here. This is a highly working class city with a high proportion of immigrants and there have simply never been enough opportunities.

    When the Kingsway Shopping Centre was closed down for the new refurbishment, whilst outdated it least had a good deal of shops in it, now a completely brand new shopping centre stands in its place but is more than half empty. It contains a Wilkinsons, a Peacocks, a Topshop ‘sale’ shop and a Claire’s accessories. Five years ago, I remember the city as being bustling with small independent businesses, both in the shopping centre and on the high street, now the only shops that remain are chains and even they are struggling. Whilst people recognised Newport’s faults, many people were still proud of their city, but now it’s like what’s the point?

    Over the last few years, they also had to close down loads of roads around the city to shove in a few fountains and some new plants and whilst doing this, they closed down all the car parks and caused a general nuisance in the area, putting people off shopping there but also made some aspects of community life difficult. For example, several county music concerts that celebrated students’ musical talents had to be cancelled because of fears that the parking situation would get out of control and be dangerous. This had a great impact on Greater Gwent Music Service, not only because it prevented children from showing off their music that they’d worked on for months – but it also impacted the fact that we couldn’t show the Council and the public why continued funding was so important for the good work GGMS does. Our concerts were also a way of fund raising for local charities and that year we couldn’t do this.

    Whilst some useful facilities have been built – a new art building for Newport uni – if you walk down Newport’s high street, you wouldn’t think this is the place to show off the ‘best of Europe’ to America. Indeed, when a friend of a friend came to get his passport here and asked what else could he do for the day – the reply was “get on a train and head to Cardiff”.

    Yes, upmarket housing has been built but it’s not exactly been easy to sell. Newport is a city STILL plagued by anti-social behaviour – if you can afford to live somewhere half decent, why would you chose to live there? Whilst maybe a stopping place for Cardiff commuters, it’s not somewhere most middle class people would choose to raise kids. The only state schools in the area with a highly regarded reputation are Caerleon and Bassleg – both of which are out of catchment of these new housing developments and already stretched to the limits in terms of capacity.

    None of the jobs that have been provided are long term either leaving Newport still with one of the highest rates of unemployment in Wales (and chavs, but that’s another matter…).

    My biggest annoyance with the Ryder Cup though is that whilst it was hosted in Newport and residents were made to put up with all the construction projects going on for several years – how many residents actually went? How many could afford to go?

    Finally, hardly any media outlets chose to ask an ordinary Newport resident (and not a business owner or someone who had another personal investment in the cup) how they felt about the Ryder cup – I wonder why…

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