Rhys Davies, The Twenty Ten course record holder (Getty Images)
Rhys Davies – the Welshman by Monty’s side this week
Europe has a secret weapon in the shrewd decision of Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie to have up-and-coming Welsh golfer Rhys Davies as part of his team.
Davies, who lives in Bridgend, a short drive from Newport along the M4, showed how well he knows The Twenty Ten layout when he set a course record of 62 in the final round of The Celtic Manor Wales Open to finish runner up in June.
And Europe’s Captain took note, announcing in August that he would have the 25 year old winner of this year’s Trophee Hassan II at his side throughout The Ryder Cup.
“He'll look after me around the course,” he said “I think he’s a Ryder Cup player of the future, the very near future, and the guy with the million dollar putting stroke. And living half an hour away from The Celtic Manor Resort, I felt that it was important to have some Welsh representation on the golf course.”
Celtic Manor became a second home for Davies when he emerged as a promising junior nearly a decade ago.
“He’s been playing there regularly since 2001,” says his father Graham Davies. “Welsh junior squad training weekends were held at Celtic Manor and he spent a lot of time there in his teenage years, especially during the winter.”
2001 was, of course, the year when Wales was bidding to host The 2010 Ryder Cup and, while Rhys was learning his trade as a golfer, his father was busy helping to shape the future of Welsh golf in the corridors of power.
As Director of Performance and Excellence for Sport Wales, Graham was a member of Wales’s Ryder Cup bid committee, the architect of its golf development strategy and instrumental in planning the creation of the Golf Union of Wales, merging the existing men and women’s governing bodies.
Naturally, he now takes great pride in what his son has achieved and the part he will play in helping Montgomerie and the European team at Celtic Manor.
“I’m really happy for him,” he says. “He didn’t make one of the nine automatic places and didn’t expect to be a captain’s pick, but he feels he’ll be in there close to the action and he’s very excited about it.”
Brian Huggett, a former Ryder Cup Captain, believes Davies has a big part to play.
“It’s quite a plus having the course record behind you,” he says. “And, hopefully, Monty will consult him.
“I’m sure he doesn’t want him there just as a driver. He’s part of the wider team, almost on the same level as the vice captains, and he’ll be able to answer questions from the other players about the course and that’ll be good for the team.”
Davies also knows a fair bit about some of Europe’s opponents, having played several of them in the Walker Cup and on the US college circuit when he was a student in Tennessee.
In 2007, he inflicted defeats on both Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson. “Rickie is a great player,” said Davies. “Though much is made of him not winning on the US PGA Tour, he’s had a number of top ten finishes, including three runners-up spots, and is a very aggressive golfer. He’ll play for birdies and eagles and, if he hits a few wayward shots, it really doesn’t seem to faze him. He will be a really tough opponent.
“And Dustin Johnson is by far the longest hitter I’ve played with in the amateur or professional game. I played lots of golf with Dustin from my college days. He was at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, and we saw lots of each other of the college circuit and speak when our paths cross. I’ve always got on very well with Dustin as we were in the same age group, and we’ve spent a lot of time together on the golf course.”
So whether it’s tips on The Twenty Ten Course or insights into some of the US team’s rookies, Davies will be contributing much more than his buggy driving skills this week.
But the main beneficiary of Monty’s decision should be Davies himself. Martin Kaymer was invited to accompany the European team to the last Ryder Cup in Valhalla and the experience is considered one of the factors in helping him win a place in this year’s team.
Certainly, the former Welsh National coach, David Llewellyn, who has seen Davies develop from the junior ranks to a European Tour winner, believes he can learn a lot.
“It’s a wonderful way for him to get an insight into what goes on at a Ryder Cup,” he says. “Which will help him, because he has a great opportunity to be part of one of the future teams.”
Huggett agrees: “He’s an intelligent lad and he’s going to be inside the ropes, right in the middle of the cauldron. He’s going to learn a lot this week. It’ll be really good for him as I expect him to play in quite a few Ryder Cups in years to come. He’s of that sort of calibre.”
Rhys Davies fact file:
Currently ranked 12th on European Tour Race to Dubai
Date of birth: 28/05/1985
Turned Pro: 2007
Residence: Bridgend, Wales
School: Brynteg Comprehensive School, Bridgend.
University: east Tennessee State, USA
2003 – British Boys Champion
2005 and 2007 - played in two Walker Cup contests, winning both his singles matches
June 2007 competed in the US Open
2009 – won SWALEC Wales Challenge at The Vale Hotel, Golf and Spa Resort
won Fred Olsen Challenge de España
2010 – won Trophee Hassan II (his maiden European Tour title)
tied second Volvo China Open
runner up The Celtic Manor Wales Open