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.