Leejay Barnes was six months into his rookie year as fully-paid up member of the PGA professional ranks when the Celtic Manor Resort was awarded the Ryder Cup.
The year was 2003 and while Barnes was beginning his first steps on the professional ladder, Ryder Cup stars of the future Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler were still in their school uniforms – though they were pretty handy with the sticks.
And now all three are preparing for the biggest week of their professional careers as the Ryder Cup brings the trio together in the City of Newport.
While McIlroy and Fowler will grab their share of the headlines for their youthful flamboyant golf, Barnes will be getting a close look at the duo – and the rest of the two teams as he undergoes the most exhausting and exhilarating experience of his life.
As the head PGA pro, he and his team will ensure that the world’s biggest names on the golfing planet do not want for anything.
“We’re running the practice facilities for all of the players,” said Barnes. “I’ll be there from 5am every morning right through until 8 o’clock at night and making sure that everything the players need is there. We’re starting the week early with Francesco Molinari and Ross Fisher the first ones here.”
With just days before the two teams arrive and little more than a week until the first ball is struck in anger, there’s an element of the calm before the storm.
“It’s just a case of tying up the loose ends now and putting the finishing touches in place ahead of everyone arriving,” said the 32-year-old. “The planning team has done a great job while the course is looking in absolutely fantastic condition – the best I’ve seen it. It’s been closed for the last four weeks and just looks fabulous.
“But now that the Ryder Cup is finally here everyone is really excited and looking forward to the great opportunity of being a part of the event. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get close to the players.
“It’s incredible being part of the whole atmosphere and the build up. It’ll be good to see all the top pros here and I’m particularly looking forward to seeing Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler, I think he’ll be quite exciting to watch and to see how he stacks up to Rory McIlroy.”
Barnes will get his chance to tackle the Twenty Ten course the week after the show has left town, with staff poised to play members. But Barnes expects the Twenty Ten, Celtic Manor and Wales as a whole to benefit significantly from staging the Ryder Cup.
“It has been a long season as we have been so busy and of course that brings its own challenges, so it has been quite full on,” he said. “But we are hoping to create a legacy from staging the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor and for Wales. A lot of people know what we have to offer across the bridge and we’re looking to build on that.”
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