Garry Houston will be Thomas Bjorn's buggy driver and right hand man at Celtic Manor (Getty Images)
Houston predicts win for on-song Europe
Whilst the host nation might not have a representative in Europe’s Ryder Cup Team itself, there will be two Welshmen who will have ringside seats as the action and drama unfolds at The Celtic Manor Resort.
By Paul Symes, europeantour.com
Bridgend’s Rhys Davies will be Europe’s unofficial ‘13th man’ – a role Martin Kaymer filled in Valhalla two years ago – whilst Wrexham resident Garry Houston will drive the buggy for one of the Vice Captains, his close friend Thomas Björn.
Houston, currently playing on the Challenge Tour, had no hesitation in accepting the request from Björn, whose shared love of Liverpool FC is a common bond.
Houston said: “We spoke about it almost as soon as Thomas was named the Vice Captain, then he called me up a bit nearer the time and I was delighted to accept straight away. I’m obviously Welsh and we’re close friends, so Thomas must have thought it seemed like a natural fit. We’ve known each other a long time from our time together on Tour, and we go and watch Liverpool play as often as we can.
“I haven’t been to a Ryder Cup since 1989, so it’ll be a great experience and I’m really looking forward to it. I was planning on just watching it on TV at home, but I’ll probably have a slightly better view from the buggy! It’s a great opportunity for me to get inside the ropes and see all the action at close quarters. I know most of the guys in the Team fairly well, having played with them on the Tour at some point down the years. So I should think I’ll be fairly familiar to most of the guys there, and hopefully I can help them in some way.”
Davies himself came mighty close to qualifying for the Team, thanks largely to his victory at the Hassan II Trophée and three runner-up finishes in his rookie season on The European Tour, having graduated from the Challenge Tour last term.
The 25 year old was ultimately unable to carry his scintillating form through the second half of the season, but Houston feels his compatriot is destined to compete in golf’s greatest team event some time in the not-too-distant future.
He said: “It’s a shame Rhys didn’t quite make the Team on merit, but it’ll be a great experience for him to be involved behind the scenes. It was a big ask for him to step up from the Challenge Tour and qualify for The Ryder Cup the next year, but if he keeps progressing and developing the way he has been then there’s every chance he’ll be in contention for future Ryder Cups. Of all the Welsh players on the Tour, at the moment you would have to say he’s got the best chance of making it onto the Team in the near future.
“His rise has been meteoric, and the same goes for Edoardo Molinari. To play in The Ryder Cup less than a year after graduating from the Challenge Tour is an amazing achievement. I played with Edoardo quite a lot in his first season on the Tour, and his transformation on the Challenge Tour last season was quite incredible. Him and his brother seem to feed off each other, and if they’re paired together I’ve got no doubts that they’ll form a formidable partnership.”
Despite a lack of Welsh presence in Europe’s 12-man Team, Houston is still confident Captain Colin Montgomerie’s men will be able to count on a voluble and sizeable home support.
He said: “There’s quite a buzz around the country now that The Ryder Cup’s drawing ever closer. Lots of people are talking about it, and I’m sure the Welsh people will turn up in their numbers to cheer the boys on. There’s been a huge amount of time, effort and money invested in it, and golf at the grass roots level has also really benefited. So I’m sure the whole country’s going to benefit, and I just hope we’re celebrating a win come Sunday night. I’m very confident we’ll be too strong – my only slight fear is that whenever the Americans seemed to be stronger on paper, we often used to win. This year the reverse is probably true, so the boys will have to guard against complacency – and I’m sure they will.”
Björn is one of the men charged with warning against any such thoughts, and the Dane is delighted to have secured the services of a trusted cohort as he goes about his duties as Vice Captain for the first time.
He said: “Garry’s one of my best friends on Tour, so if you’re going to spend the whole week together, it’s got to be somebody you trust and know well. When I was asked to be a Vice Captain, it didn’t take me long to decide Garry was the natural choice to assist me. He’s such as close friend and he’s Welsh, so I didn’t need too much time to think about it.
“Garry will learn a lot this week. There’s a big difference seeing life from inside the ropes, going into the locker room, getting close to the players, and seeing how the best players in the world go about their daily business. So he’ll learn from their behaviour, and hopefully it’ll also inspire him.
“Our job is to make sure the players don’t have to think about anything other than just playing golf. It’s important for Colin to have people around him who he can trust and who he’s got complete confidence in – I chose Garry for the same reasons. It’s all about the 12 players and Captain, and it says a lot of what the Tour’s about that we’ll do everything we can to help the Team win. The camaraderie of the Tour will be shown this week, from the top to the bottom.”