The first time the idea of bringing the Ryder Cup to Wales was put forward – in my presence at least – was while I was touring a building site with a mega-rich but slightly eccentric electronics tycoon in
Sir Terry Matthews was outlining his plans for a £100 million hotel, flanked by three golf courses, on the site of the maternity hospital where he was born 56 years earlier.
I couldn’t resist the urge to ask whether the midwife had bumped Matthews’ head while he was being delivered, because a project on that scale, on the outskirts of Newport, was surely destined to be a white elephant.
Sir Terry overheard and replied: “It’s going to happen alright, and it will be a big success – and one day I’ll even bring the Ryder Cup here”.
Sure enough, the hotel was built and taking in its first guests within six months. Fast forward 11 years, and the fanciful notion of a Ryder Cup in Wales has become a reality.
And no amount of rain will dampen the enthusiasm of myself and my fellow Welshmen for easily the biggest sporting event ever to hit the Principality.
During my 30 years as a sports reporter I have attended FA Cup finals, an Ashes Test match, and even a rugby World Cup final in Wales.
I never thought it would get any biger than that World Cup final in our national sport – even though it was contested by Australia and England, as Wales had sadly gone out at the quarter-final stage.
That was the same year Sir Terry outlined his bold scheme to bring golf’s holy grail to his home land. But make no mistake, the Ryder Cup is much, much bigger than anything else from our sporting heritage.
The benefits for grass roots golf, for tourism, and for Wales’ world profile are obvious – but it is the sense of pride the event evokes that over-rides all other considerations.
The third biggest sporting spectacle on the planet, behind only the Olympics and the football World Cup, has come to a country Hollywood and much of the world thought was populated only by singing miners.
Okay, even with his connections, Sir Terry couldn’t do anything about the weather.
Big deal. The Ryder Cup is about passion, nerve, skill, and tenacity – hardly qualities you associate with fair weather golfers.
Everyone will still leave Celtic Manor with a million great memories of one of sport’s fiercest and most compelling rivalries.
And for three million Welsh men and women those memories will be handed down through the generations, recalling how one week changed the sporting landscape forever.
The country has embraced the competition, supported it financially, and talked of little else since the baton was passed on to Celtic Manor at Valhalla.
Proud to be Welsh ? Proud that we are staging such a massive event? Proud that one Welshman refused to believe the whole concept was impossible ?
You bet your sweet life we are.