A successful bid to stage the Ryder Cup would help Welsh golf ‘sweep away sexism and à©litism’. With the host country to be named on January 31, sports leaders in Wales have unveiled details of their vision of ‘golf for all’.
They revealed that talks have already begun between the Welsh men’s and ladies’ golfing unions with the aim of effecting an historic merger between the two governing bodies. And they announced a practical example of what was being done to nurture talent by naming five golfers selected for the Sports Council for Wales’s unique programme to support players in the transition from amateur to professional competition.
“The bid goes far beyond a single tournament – huge though the Ryder Cup is,” said Wales bid committee chairman Tony Lewis. “The aim is to transform the golfing landscape in Wales, create new facilities and opportunities and sweep away sexism and à©litism completely.
“We will work towards these aims anyway but a successful Ryder Cup bid would act as a catalyst, allowing the game to develop much more rapidly and opening up much greater opportunities for public and private sector funding.”
Andrew B Morgan, Welsh Golfing Union Development Committee Chairman, revealed that the ladies’ and men’s unions were ‘working towards amalgamation – the formation of a single golfing union – uniting to form a more effective force’.
“With the Ryder Cup as the catalyst for change,” he added, “Wales would like to abolish existing divisions, restrictions and preconceptions surrounding the game of golf. We want the golfers of Wales to be girls, boys, women, men – the game to be truly and equally accessible to everyone.”
The Bid’s proposals include:
- The appointment of Golf Development Officers
- The establishment of golf as a mainstream activity with new schools coaching for children aged between eight and 12 and professional coaching programmes for children aged 12-plus
- More facilities, especially pay and play, driving ranges, indoor coaching/practice facilities and nine hole courses, all made more accessible to young people and schools
- Clubs encouraged to be more inclusive to young players and women, a sexual equality strategy and all development programmes mixed gender
- National Centres of Excellence providing PGA coaching and facilities
- The harnessing of new technology to improve all aspects of golf in Wales
Andrew B Morgan said that at the heart of the vision was the creation of new facilities. Welsh golf courses were often over subscribed and predominantly private clubs. As long as this continued, the numbers of people who could participate would be limited.
“Even when people are in a position to afford membership fees, they often feel intimidated by the à©litist image of the game,” he said. “That scenario is changing but we need to accelerate that change. We want to remove these barriers; we can do so with the provision of more public pay and play courses that are locally available to local communities.”
Tony Lewis concluded, “There have been achievements but there is also unrealised potential that would be unlocked by the Ryder Cup. Wales already has a great golfing tradition, some superb courses, many outstanding players – eight men on the European Tour, one woman on the US Tour.
“However, Wales is not recognised as one of the top golfing nations, has not had a high tournament profile and is relatively underdeveloped in terms of golfing infrastructure. Wales wants the opportunity to reach the level achieved in Scotland, Ireland, England and other top golfing nations.”
Mr Lewis said the Sports Council for Wales’s support for transitional professional golfers was an excellent practical example of what was being done. “The five new professional golfers being supported are à©lite only in terms of talent – they come from a wide range of backgrounds and their abilities have nothing to do with privilege.”
The Wales Ryder Cup bid committee is a partnership led by the National Assembly with participation from the Welsh Development Agency, the Wales Tourist Board, Sports Council for Wales, the Welsh Golfing Union, the Welsh Ladies’ Golf Union, Newport County Borough Council and The Celtic Manor Resort.
Wales’ official candidate venue is The Celtic Manor Resort, which already stages and sponsors The Wales Open. Situated on the M4, just five minutes from the Severn Bridge, the resort offers a 400 room, five star hotel, 40 function rooms, a 1500 delegate convention centre, 4 restaurants, 2 health clubs, superb practice and player facilities, and three Trent Jones golf courses, including the par 72 Wentwood Hills.
In the Welsh Assembly, the bid has enjoyed the support of all four political parties. MPs, local authorities throughout Wales and a wide range of celebrities have all supported the bid.
Strong backing for the bid has come from all the leading Welsh players including Ian Woosnam, Phil Price, David Park, Becky Brewerton and Eleanor Pilgrim. Brian Huggett, a veteran of seven Ryder Cups, is also a member of the bid committee.
Ryder Cup Wales www.walesrydercup2009.org