"It will be great. The course has matured with age, much like a fine wine, and it is getting in better and better condition every year. By 2006 it will be something everyone in Ireland is going to be proud of, a venue very much worthy of holding The Ryder Cup."
Those words, spoken by Paul McGinley, who holed the winning putt for Europe in the 2002 triumph, speak volumes about not only The K Club and The Palmer Course but also provide an insight into how Ireland is looking forward to hosting the match.
Ireland is renowned worldwide for its stunning courses and The K Club, which will host the Smurfit European Open for a 12th time in July, 2006, two months prior to The Ryder Cup, has, in the words of John O'Donoghue, T.D., Minister of Arts, Sports and Tourism, became a symbol of Ireland's great progress as a location for world-class sporting events.
O'Donoghue said: "The growth of golf in Ireland over the past 20 years has been a unique partnership between the Government, public and private enterprise. Golf is one of Ireland's greatest tourist attractions. More than 138,000 golfers from across the world visit Ireland annually contributing €126 million to the economy. The benefits for Ireland, for Irish golf and for The K Club, will stretch well beyond Ryder Cup week."
That The K Club should host The Ryder Cup seemed highly probable from the moment Arnold Palmer and his design team were brought on board to build the course on the estate at Straffan, which consisted of 330 acres when Dr Michael Smurfit bought it in 1988. Palmer suggested soon after starting work that it was entirely realistic to apply for The K Club to stage The Ryder Cup in 1993 - the official opening of the course was in July, 1991 - although it was not until 1997 that The Ryder Cup Board awarded the 2006 (then 2005) match to them.
Dr Smurfit and Paul Crowe, the Director of Golf at The K Club, have since then been telling anyone and everyone who would listen: "You don't understand just how big this is going to be for Ireland and Irish golf."
In that time no stone has been left unturned to ensure that The K Club and The Palmer Course will be ready and waiting. One expansion has followed another so that The K Club now comprises a 78-bedroom hotel, two championship golf courses, a luxurious spa and, of course, a place in history on the horizon.
More importantly, a programme of work on the course from January 2004 through to June 2005 ensured that The Palmer Course will be at its most challenging when The K Club hosts The Ryder Cup. That programme of work included the remodelling of a number of holes, the construction of a number of new tees in addition to work on the bunkers. The only work remaining is in relation to presentation and conditioning.
McGinley says: "I believe the course with those three final holes now having water in play will be fantastic for match play. The finishing stretch down the Liffey will be nerve tingling."
Ian Woosnam, Europe's Captain, agrees. He says: "This is just about as good as it gets for match play golf and it is going to be a brilliant setting for The Ryder Cup. Mind you with the shots required for some of the possible pin positions, I'm pleased to be the Captain! Seriously, the combination of The Ryder Cup and this Arnold Palmer-designed course will create a very special atmosphere; the spectators are in for a fabulous festival of great golf."
Tom Lehman, the United States Captain, pointed out: "My initial reaction is that it is a good driving course. With the rough up the way that it is, you need to put the ball in the fairway. The greens are somewhat unique, there is a lot of personality to them. The challenge is there and the firmer it gets the harder it is going to become."
Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland
Palmer Course: 7335 Yards / Par 72
|*Distance shown in yards.|
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