Footballers pitch in to aid Spain’s Ryder Cup bid

Xavi Hernandez of FC Barcelona is backing the bid. Picture: Getty
Xavi Hernandez of FC Barcelona is backing the bid. Picture: Getty
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SPAIN has recruited some footballing giants in the battle to stage the 2022 Ryder Cup, using both Pep Guardiola and Xavi Hernandez to front up their bid to lure the event to the PGA Catalunya Resort, near Girona.

“Come and play the Ryder Cup at my home,” was the message from Catalan Guardiola, the former Barcelona manager who is now in charge of German champions Bayern Munich, in a video shown to Ryder Cup Europe officials during their visit to the region this week.

It also featured Barcelona midfielder Xavi while one of his team-mates, Andres Iniesta, owns a plot at the venue chosen by the Spanish as they attempt to come out on top in a bidding process that also has Germany, Italy, Austria and Portugal in the mix. “Barcelona is a football town and we’d be silly not to use it,” declared bid manager Matt Wilson, who accompanied the Ryder Cup Europe delegation during a trip to the Nou Camp as part of their visit to the Catalan capital on Wednesday.

As well as seeing some of the officials hitting chip shots on the turf where Lionel Messi is normally working his magic, the visit also granted PGA Catalunya officials a golden photo opportunity by planting a flag bearing its logo in the centre circle.

“The club retweeted a video of the visit and it went to 14.5 million people,” added Wilson as he illustrated the reach of the Barcelona brand in the sporting world.

While the help of such high-profile sporting figures has been appreciated by the Spanish bid team, they believe their “ace in the pack” is the Stadium Course at PGA Catalunya, both in terms of the test it provides and also its overall suitability for a Ryder Cup.

“We are trying to recreate the Scottish model,” revealed Wilson. “European Golf Design pretty much picked up the Gleneagles site plan, threw it in the air and plonked it down here and said it fits.

“The course configuration works and no major redesign is needed – it is there now.” 
That wasn’t the case when Spain lost to France in the bidding for the 2018 match.

Then, Ryder Cup Europe officials visited Madrid to see a “grassed over rubbish dump” as the proposed course there had still to be built.

Another strong element of this Spanish bid is the transport system in the area. The PGA Catalunya resort, designed by Neil Coles and Angel Gallardo, sits between two main highways while the Costa Brava airport is only 15 minutes away and was where Manchester United fans travelled to for the 1999 Champions League final at the Nou Camp.

“We are also building a new rail station at Girona Airport to link with Barcelona station,” said Wilson, “and if we get the 2022 event one of the plus points for spectators will be getting from Barcelona city centre to the first tee in 45 minutes.”

The keenly-awaited decision was expected in October, though it is being rumoured that may now be moved forward. “If we are successful,” said PGA Catalunya’s head greenkeeper, David Bataller, with a smile, “the icing on the cake would be for Sergio [Garcia] to be the European captain and Tiger [Woods] the American captain. How good would that be?”