Spain vows to build on Scots Ryder Cup success

Tim Hunt, of Ryder Cup Europe, tees off in the Nou Camp at the launch of Spain's bid.
Tim Hunt, of Ryder Cup Europe, tees off in the Nou Camp at the launch of Spain's bid.
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SCOTLAND’S Ryder Cup may have come and gone but Paul McGinley’s template from Gleneagles last September isn’t the only one being carried forward as the event prepares for a European adventure.

As well as the team behind France staging the 2018 match, officials from the five countries still in the race for the 2022 tussle are also using the model that proved so successful for the event’s first staging in the home of golf for more than 40 years as the foundations for their bids.

Richard Hills, Europe’s Ryder Cup director, and his team are in the middle of a whistle-stop tour of those contenders. Last week they were in Germany, where it has since been announced that a successful bid would see the event staged at the Nick Faldo-designed A-Rosa course at Bad Saarow, near Berlin.

Over the last couple of days, the delegation has been in Spain, first visiting its chosen venue, the PGA Catalunya Resort near Girona, before moving on to Barcelona, where they visited the infamous La Boqueria market to sample some of the local produce after meeting with city officials.

They’ve now travelled to Italy, then visit Austria next week, with Portugal, the remaining country in the frame after Turkey’s withdrawal was confirmed last week, still to set a date to show off what they have to offer.

Unfortunately, Spain – the only Continental European country to have staged the match in its history after the visit to Valderrama in 1997 – were unable to showcase their bid with the full fanfare that had been planned. A press conference due to be held in the Palau de Generalitat de Catalunya was cancelled following the death of 150 people on a Germanwings plane in the Alps after it had left Barcelona on Tuesday morning bound for Dusseldorf.

However, they still managed to make a favourable impression with their important guests, both in terms of the course they have chosen – the PGA Catalunya Resort has been the home of the European Tour’s Qualifying School for the past few years as well as staging last season’s Spanish Open – and also their willingness to embrace the legacy of the Ryder Cup as enthusiastically as Scotland did.

“We’ve had demonstrations this morning about how the area would work towards becoming a partner for the Ryder Cup in a similar way to what happened in Scotland,” said Hills, having tasted delicacies such as sea urchin as he was given a personal tour around the city’s main market by Paco Pérez, a well-known Catalan chef who boasts five Michelin stars.

“I think some education has taken place in respect of knowledge being shared, beyond the golf as well, between VisitScotland and Catalunya and we encourage that to happen,” he added. “The bid team here have observed what happened with clubgolf in Scotland. They’ve observed what happened with the education curriculum and they’ve observed some of the health initiatives which were undertaken in Scotland.”

Centred on Madrid on that occasion, Spain lost out to France for the aforementioned 2018 contest. They believe there are a number of factors that make this latest bid better than that one, including the fact Barcelona is tried and tested as a major sporting venue, having staged the Olympics in 1992.

Once one of the European Tour’s strongholds – at its peak it staged seven events in the one season – Spain probably suffered more than any other country when the financial market went into meltdown a few years ago, but it is starting to recover again.

“We sum up our bid in three words,” said Gonzaga Escauriaza, president of the Spanish Golf Federation. “We have history, having contributed enormously to the tour and the Ryder Cup over the years with courses, players and captains. There is also certainty as the Catalans deliver when they come into something and the third word is passion, the epitome of the Spanish
people.”

Revealing it was Spain’s intention to build on the success of the event at Gleneagles, he added: “We’d like to name it Ryder Cup Plus. We want to be a bit more ambitious, we want to extend it and not just be a one-off event. We want to strengthen our links with the European Tour for a decade. Putting golf in society, schools and bringing back sponsors. The crisis in Europe affected us. It would motivate the country to have this passion for a cause. Hopefully this could be a turning point for us to get back to where we were. We are focusing on our own strengths and being realistic.”

While Germany, helped by the fact Bernhard Langer was a winning captain in 2004 and Martin Kaymer holed the decisive putt in the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ eight years later, would appear to be favourites, Hills insisted the fact Spain has already hosted the event wouldn’t necessarily count against it.

Indeed, he admitted that landmark dates such as the 2022 event being the 25th anniversary of Seve Ballesteros captaining Europe on Spanish soil had certainly been noted as “poignant”.

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