Ryder Cup: Scot David Garland on running golf's biggest event inside the ropes

David Garland, Director of Tour Operations at the DP World Tour, pictured at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club prior to the 44th Ryder Cup. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.David Garland, Director of Tour Operations at the DP World Tour, pictured at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club prior to the 44th Ryder Cup. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.
David Garland, Director of Tour Operations at the DP World Tour, pictured at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club prior to the 44th Ryder Cup. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.
Add Italy to an exciting Ryder Cup journey that has already taken David Garland to England, Spain, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, France and, more than once, the United States. His involvement in the biennial event has been in a working capacity, initially as referee on what is now called the DP World Tour and, latterly, as its Director of Tour Operations.

“My first one was in 1989,” recalled Garland, speaking to The Scotsman at Marco Simone Golf Club on the outskirts of Rome, where the 44th edition is being held. “I wasn’t there in 1991, but I’ve done every one since in some capacity. Refereeing in the early days and latterly, running it inside the ropes.”

One of the biggest events in the world of sport, the match against the Americans seems to attract more and more interest every time it comes around. It’s a special occasion and not just for the players and fans.

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“It’s a massive, massive sporting event in its own right,” added Garland, who hails from Elie but now lives close to the tour’s Wentworth HQ, although he still retains a base in the Fife town. “It’s the biggest event we’ve got in golf and to be involved in it has given me some of the biggest highlights of my career, that’s for sure, as it is very special.”

Garland particularly enjoyed being part of the 2014 match at Gleneagles, where Paul McGinley’s European side recorded a 16.5-11.5 victory over three days of glorious weather in Perthshire. “To do a Ryder Cup in your home country and one at an iconic venue like Gleneagles that had been such a big part of Scottish and European golf with so many European Tour events held there over the years was very special indeed,” he said. “It was great to work with Paul McGinley, who had a vision about how he wanted the course to be set up and to win the way we did that week made it a very special week.

“I was able to bring my family up the weekend before and was able to show them some of the back of house stuff that week - the TV compound, the snooze boxes we used for accommodation - and they had no idea of the size of it. They all went ‘wow!’”

Paris, of course, staged the last one on this side of the Atlantic in 2018 and now Rome is the latest host city in Continental Europe. “Talk about two iconic cities,” said Garland. “For anyone coming over here, it’s not only golf but sightseeing as well. For the Year to Go event last year, we had Luke Donald and Zach Johnson hitting shots in front of the Colosseum and that provided stunning photographs.”

Garland is probably more familiar with Marco Simone than anyone in his team, having been a referee there when it staged the Italian Open in 1994. It wasn’t until 2021, by which time it had been identified as a Ryder Cup venue, that the DP World Tour went back there.

“When we knew we were coming here and our first visit back, Laura Biagiotti was still alive and we met her in the castle and she came up to me, pinched my cheek, gave me a big smile and hug and said, ‘Ah, bellissimo, nice to see you back’. It was a nice atmosphere to come back to,” recalled Garland.

“It’s a completely new golf course. It was a big strong golf course back in 1994, when we had the Italian Open here. Eduardoo, who is no longer with us sadly, won it, with Greg Turner second. But it’s been completely rebuilt since then. There’s probably only the sixth hole that has the same routing as before. Every blade of grass on the golf course is new, so, yeah, completely different.

“It is tailor made for a Ryder Cup, There are lots of elevation changes. I think it’s 52 metres from the lowest to highest point on the course and, if you do that a couple of times each day, then it’s going to be a test physically.

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“I think it will be a very exciting Ryder Cup course as there are a lot of risk-and-reward holes out there. We’ve had three Italian Opens at Marco Simone recently and 11 under, 13 under and 13 under again were the winning totals, so it stands up to the modern game.”

As Europe bid to win the trophy back after a 19-9 hammering at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin two years ago, is it Donald who will have the final say about how the course is set up over the three days? “Not really,” insisted Garland. “We work with Luke and his vice captains and we also got feedback from players in those Italian Opens. But, on a day-to-day basis in the Ryder Cup, it’s going to be Mats Lanner from Ryder Cup Europe and Todd Gary from the PGA of America who will decide on the tees and hole locations. Regarding the 16th, it might be that we just play that as driveable par-4 every day as it’s a great risk and reward hole as that stage in a match and could really provide some great drama.

“The Ryder Cup is so big now that you need a venue that has space to accommodate car parking and also the back-of-house hospitality. You need very big venues that can accommodate that, as well as the golf course. I’ve made as many as ten visits since last October, including the Italian Open in May as that was a final dress rehearsal.”



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