Two years later, Wales pleased with Ryder Cup legacy

By Brandon TuckerSeptember 26, 2012, 3:19 pm

The 2010 Ryder Cup Matches will go down as an event that began with rainfall of biblical proportions and ended with a dramatic finish that came down to the final pairing. 

Certainly memorable for a variety of reasons, two years later, Wales officials are proclaiming the event a great success. The aim of Terry Matthews, the wealthy Welshman who was the driving force behind securing the event at his Celtic Manor Resort, was to put the largest, international sporting spotlight on Wales ever.

Thus far, the multi-pronged, all-hands-on-deck approach by the country since the announcement in 2001 appears to be paying off. Consider this: in 2002, Visit Wales says the country hosted 30,000 visiting golfers, which helped drive 7 million pounds into the economy. Following the 2010 Ryder Cup, that number soared to 200,000 golfers and 40 million pounds. That includes 76,000 American visitors to Wales in 2011. 

'We've gone from the challenges of making people aware [of Wales],' said Rob Holt, Director of Marketing for Visit Wales. 'To the point where we're challenging to keep people. It's a great new challenge to have.'

U.S.-based tour operator Perry Golf says they've seen a slight bump in Wales interest since the matches. Gordon Dalgleish, co-founder and president of the company, says that while it's rarely the first place golfers want to visit in the British Isles (that still goes to Scotland and Ireland) repeat visitors would be well served to make the visit.

'From a price point it's very attractive,' he said. 'It's in-line with the northwest of Ireland. Wales is a slightly different culture, has some great scenery and the quality of golf is every bit as good.'

Dalgleish said its popular for golf tours to include the Open Championship links on England's nearby Lancashire coast with north Wales. 

'The one challenge is they don't have the same caddie culture (as Scotland and Ireland),' said Dalgleish. 'For some Americans, that's a bit of a negative.'

Tourism aside, Wales used the Ryder Cup to springboard local interest in golf. 2 million pounds were invested in local, accessible golf opportunities from 2007-2010. This included 38 new, public-access golf facilities and Wales is happy to report they've all done well and helped increase the amount of golfers in the country, which bucks the trend of declining interest in many parts of the world and a struggling economy in Europe.

'One would have expected a couple of these facilities would be struggling,' said Holt. 'But they are all still up and running and getting more people into the game of golf.'

And while the Ryder Cup posed some logistical challenges due to the rain and Monday finish, officials were pleased with how the logistics were handled and are thirsty for more big events. Wales helped host the 2012 Olympic games in London by staging soccer matches in Cardiff. In 2014, the country will host its first major golf tournament, the 2014 Senior Open Championship at Royal Porthcawl, which the R & A has agreed to bring to Porthcawl twice more before 2025.

Four undeniably unique golf courses in Wales

Pennard cows

Having visited Wales several times myself, the following courses are as unique as golf in the British Isles can be:

Pennard Golf Club: An extremely raw, ever-scenic links set high on a cliff top in southwest Wales. Horses, sheep and cattle roam the course freely and the fairways have nary a flat spot.

Royal Porthcawl Golf Club: For the touring golfer, it's as enjoyable of a course as any on the British Open rota; a historic and tremendous blend of true links playability and seaside scenery on every hole.

Nefyn & District Golf Club: An imperfect, and at times comically bizarre cliffside course design on one of the game's most jaw-dropping, peninsula settings high above the ocean.

Southerndown Golf Club: The sheep roam freely and abundantly on this lofty, rolling spot of countryside overlooking the southern coast.

Aberdovey, Bull Bay and Royal St. David's are also a lot of fun. 

Wales also has some very unique accommodations. One of the most interesting places I've ever stayed is Portmeirion Village, a small, storybook seaside village in north wales near Portmadog and close to Nefyn & District.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.