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Full Steam Ahead
CAP: Sir Terry Matthews, Chairman of The Celtic Manor Resort, Rt Hon Rhodri Morgan, First Minister for Wales and George O'Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour. ©2009 Getty Images

Full steam ahead for The Ryder Cup

Three of the most powerful voices in the build-up to The 2010 Ryder Cup - The Right Honorable Rhodri Morgan, Sir Terry Matthews and George O'Grady - convened at The Celtic Manor Resort today to deliver the news that it's 'full steam ahead' to next year's contest in Wales. A full transcript follows.

SCOTT CROCKETT: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attendance here today. It's my great pleasure to welcome you all here on this beautiful morning and to the start of what I'm sure will be a wonderful week here at the Celtic Manor Resort.

Indeed the next 16 months are set to be one of most exciting periods in Welsh sporting history as we embrace on the golfing front, not only two Celtic Manor Wales Opens, but also, of course, The Ryder Cup, which will unfold on the magnificent Twenty Ten Course to our left next October.

To help us look ahead to these events, I am delighted to be joined this morning by a very distinguished top table. To my left is the Honourable Rhodri Morgan, First Minister for Wales. Rhodri has been MP for Cardiff West since 1987, firstly in the House of Commons in London and latterly, in the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff, where he assumed the role of First Minister in February 2000. Rhodri, you are most welcome today.

On my immediate left is Sir Terry Matthews, Chairman of the Celtic Manor Resort. The founder of over 60 companies in the high tech communications field in the U.K. and Canada, Sir Terry bought Celtic Manor in 1980 and has been the driving force behind the Resort's unrivalled success, which, of course, culminated in it being awarded The Ryder Cup in 2001.

Sir Terry, once again, thank you for your hospitality again this week and welcome to you.

Finally on the far left, is George O'Grady Chief Executive of The European Tour. George became the third Chief Executive of the Tour on January 1, 2005 following John Jacobs and Ken Schofield and was instrumental in instigating one of the most exciting developments in world golf in recent years; namely this year's Race to Dubai.

George, welcome.

Before we move to questions from the floor, would I like to ask each of our special guests this morning to give you their own words of welcome.

Rhodri, please if you would like to begin.

RHODRI MORGAN: Yes, I want to begin by saying to all of you ladies and gentlemen of the media the same message that we will be putting out to the golf fans of the world in 15, 16 months time; that is, they are very welcome to come to Wales, and they are very welcome to come to The Ryder Cup, and they are very welcome to enjoy their golf in Wales or come as tourists in Wales. The Ryder Cup on October 1, 2, 3 next year will be the centerpiece of that welcome.

The amazing thing for me this morning, is just simply to look out from that balcony at the completion of the works ready for today's tournament or the Pro Am today and then ready for the tournament over the remainder of this weekend. But also because it is The Twenty Ten Course, it's not only that the clubhouse is complete, the course is complete, you can see that works are still continuing on the practice ground, and the bridge that will be connecting the entry point to the clubhouse and so forth will be completed soon.

But we just had a review now with The European Tour, and with Sir Terry and Celtic Manor Resort and knew port city council and various other bodies to review progress and progress is going very well on every aspect of the preparations for next year. No major snags have emerged which require any change of sort of strategy by any of us, and therefore, we can say definitely it's going well, and no more than the usual snags that you would expect here and there which no doubt you may want to ask us about, but we may have missed out on a few things we don't know but we don't see any problems about the delivery what have will be an outstanding Welsh Ryder Cup in 2010 at The Celtic Manor resort. At The Celtic Manor resort, it's all systems that. That's all from me.

SCOTT CROCKETT: I would like to ask Sir Terry Matthews to offer his own welcome.

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: I'm pleased to be here and welcome to Celtic Manor Resort. Welcome to The Twenty Ten Course. This has been a long time in the making, but it's a delight for me to come and see such a nice day, see the Pro Am underway, see a great field of play, and just feeling good about the entire thing.

We are ready to run The Ryder Cup next year, little tweaks here and there. The bridge is to be put over the River Usk; that started with the roadway going in. The bridge I understand will start next week, should be finished by early next year. There is sort of still work to be done with some flowering bushes, make the place look very, very good; and the pathways which have now been put into place, a little paving to be done on the bus parking and things, but these are all little tweaks, you know, the majority of the work has been done over the last few years, and this is the 10th Wales Open to be held on it.

I was very pleased to see comments by Corey Pavin and Colin Montgomerie that they really like the course. They really think it's ready for The Ryder Cup. Certainly whether it comes to the facilities for hospitality or the facilities for visitors and the getting in and out, the logistics, I'm really pleased with what I'm hearing at the Ministerial meeting with George O'Grady and First Minister Rhodri Morgan that we have our act together. The partnership is working very well and almost all aspects of our meetings I hear about, and I'm just delighted to see that it's going as best as it possibly can.

As far as I can tell, this Ryder Cup coming up will be the best ever, whether it's the Opening Ceremony; whether it's the way the logistics work for people coming in and out; whether it's the things I hear from people in North America looking forward to coming to it, I'm really getting ready and feel excellent about the facilities and the way The Ryder Cup is forming up for next year.

We have heard excellent comments from the PGA of America, and I was pleased to hear the direct comments from George O'Grady. The course, I'm sure most of you have now seen it. It's beginning to mature, Jim McKenzie and company I think have done a terrific job. I think Russell Phillips has done a great job in the surrounding facilities for parking and moving people around and so on. There's very little extra work to be done.

So I'm confident. Things are going well, and I'm feeling damn good about it. Thank you.

SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you very much, Terry. And now last, but by no means least, George O'Grady if you would like to say a few words.

GEORGE O'GRADY: On behalf of the Ryder Cup Europe I pay tribute today to the work that our partners in The 2010 Ryder Cup, the work they have put in.

Firstly to the First Minister, we have had a long Ministerial steering committee this morning. All of these committee meetings that have gone on for the last four years, five years, have been chaired by the First Minister of Wales, and that brings all the relevant people in this area together, all the planners, all the organisers, and when you have the First Minister actually running these things, it shows the commitment of Wales and the surrounding area.

I think together with that, Celtic Manor Resort, Sir Terry and your team over the winter, throughout, you have achieved miracles here at Celtic Manor. Really this winter we have seen great progress. All the infrastructure we need is right on target, all of your team, Jim McKenzie, Russell Phillips, Dylan Matthews, the work they have put in and the welcome they give to all of us, all of us guests, all of our players is tremendous, and we have a really great partnership.

I will break from the normal tradition of The European Tour and mention our own staff just once: Richard Hills, our Ryder Cup Director, and Edward Kitson our Ryder Cup Match Director, together with all of the team who work on the different planning aspects, it's pulled together and we have a great Ryder Cup Team. Thank you very much for your efforts so far, and to our hosts, thank you.

SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you very much, George.

Q. Sir Terry, when you hear the rumours about The Ryder Cup not coming here after all, what is your everything you've invested, what's your feeling that people are saying that sort of thing, local people around here can believe that sort of thing?

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: I'm lucky enough to have been in business now for about 40 years, and I typically don't believe the press sometimes and what they write. God knows who speculates about what. Doesn't have much affect on me. Frankly you could hit me with a nuke and it still would not have much effect. You go straight to the horse's mouth and ask directly, and that's what I do. So no emotional attachment to such things at all.

It's surprising, George just early this morning is saying that Richard is coming on fine, he's still in training. But I think he's doing a great job. (Laughter).

Little remarks, people have fun and say things and sometimes things are taken out of context. Doesn't mean anything, you know, somebody speculated. Tough.

GEORGE O'GRADY: I think from The Ryder Cup Europe point of view, we feel more confident here at Celtic Manor and in Wales than some of the other rumoured venues we might have been moving it so, so I think we are very solid here.

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: We have had a long relationship with The European Tour. I mean, this is not a one shot thing for me. It's very important, whether it's the Wales Open, that we look after the players and the players' family and we look after all of the marshals and the people who are volunteers. I mean, the direct response that comes to me one on one is they like it here. They like the re section. This is kind of a welcome, the Wales thing that goes on here at The Wales Open.

So this is what I would call a great deal of goodwill. That matters a lot in life, whether it's the Ryder Cup, The Wales Open or anything else.

So the goodwill that we have developed I think over the many years with the Wales Open and The European Tour, and meetings I've had time and time again with the US PGA, they are looking forward to this. This is not a one shot thing.

No other questions? All right, I'm surprised at that. Something embarrassing.

Q. I've got one.

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: Something embarrassing.

Q. Early days obviously, because you only launched the ticket sale system a few weeks ago, but early indications on that and hospitality sales, difficult financial times?

GEORGE O'GRADY: Ticket sales are completely on track. We are exactly on the figures we thought we could get at this stage and the numbers. Hospitality sales are harder but I think are now encouraging over the last few weeks. We didn't expect hospitality to be as straightforward as it was in Ireland, but we think it bodes well as an excellent value for money and outlook is reasonable.

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: I can comment on that, too. I have a lot of business friends in North America, and they are looking forward to coming next year and they are quite vocal about the whole thing.

So I think notwithstanding a recession, there will be considerable support from the United States.

Q. This bridge

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: Which bridge?

Q. Well, I think one of the things that has been rumoured that has been circulating is that it has been causing a little bit of a problem. I don't know other than what you've just said, Rhodri, about linking the A whatever it is, I don't know which bridge we are talking about, or whether, indeed, we are talking about two bridges; and am I also not right in thinking that ecologically it is passing over or through a sensitive area?

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: The whole area is sensitive because this was the biggest Roman fortress in all of the United Kingdom; so that the whole valley has been very sensitive with respect to archaeological works. The things we found are quite staggering in the area, which is something I'm very interested in. I like that Roman era, by the way. This is a fortress here, which has infrastructure around it which causes most concern for the archaeological and historians. But we are very careful about looking at that and making sure that we do the right things, and then if you look at the river, it's also a sensitive thing for all kind of animal life, and again, like you have to pay proper consideration to that as well.

But these things have been looked after and there are no hold ups of any kind. The bridge most people talk about is the one that needs to be finished because it's the last piece of what I call trimmings that need to be done and it goes just over here across the River Usk. It's quite wide, about 330 feet across, it's not a small bridge and almost five metres wide and has to carry vehicles for emergency purposes and lots of people back and forth to what is the other side of the river.

As you come in to see this particular section of the course, you know, with the clubhouse, The Twenty Ten Clubhouse, you can look over from the other side of the bank and see a considerable amount of earth works going on. That's actually topsoil going in, because that's where the practice area is and the TV compound.

Well, then there's a river between us and across, so it has to have a bridge, and the bridge has always been something of consideration, what style of bridge. And by the way, it has to accommodate various animals that go up and down that river bank.

So total approval; moving ahead. Foundation is starting next week. It will be finished by early next year, and it will be what's called a cable stay bridge. We reviewed that today at the ministerial meeting. Not a problem. I mean, it's being fabricated as we speak.

So what I call trimmings, it's little things. I know a bridge is kind of perhaps a big thing, but the biggest thing is make sure that the course is right and make sure the players like the course.

RHODRI MORGAN: And can I just add to that, the bridge has had full approval from all the necessity environment agency and local planning purposes; and the contract has been let, the contract has been won by a local engineering company of very high repute.

So it's helping to create jobs in the local economy, as well, which is great, and it has not got any arguments about the permits required to build it in the site of special scientific interest that the lower Usk Valley. Is it's all sorted.

Q. Is it across two river banks?

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: It's 330 feet across. It's a significant bridge.

Q. What's a cable stay?

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: It looks a little bit like a suspension bridge but instead there are cables that come down from towers rather than a suspension bridge where everything is suspended from a cable. It's a little bit like, for instance, a cable stay bridge would be the M4 across the River Severn; not the old one, but the new one. That would be called a cable stay bridge where cables go from towers back down to support the bridge.

SIMON GIBSON: It's probably worth mentioning the bridge is so long, so it doesn't impact the river or its banks.

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: That was one of the issues, in order to not disturb the river, it has to be a very long bridge, and therefore, very costly. I'm glad you brought that up. (Laughter).

Q. I'm sure this is already in the public domain but I don't know, so I'll ask. Which course will next year's Wales Open be played on?

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: Oh, the same one, isn't that correct? Yeah, there's sufficient gap between the end of May and the end of September that we don't have to worry too much about that.

So The Celtic Manor Wales Open will be played again on this course and that will be very good, by the way, certainly for The Celtic Manor Resort, because you know, Corey has asked that many of the players come and play The Wales Open. So my feeling is The Wales Open next year should have an unbelievable field of players.

Q. Bridges aren't cheap, you said yourself, did you have to pay for the bridge and was that a bone of contention?

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: Yes, thank you. Can we have a little plate go around the aisles? (Laughter).

Good question.

Q. How expensive was it?

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: It was very expensive; thank you for looking at me.

Q. Any contention between who paid for it?

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: I would love to have someone else pay for it. Are you interested?

Q. My salary probably wouldn't stretch to that….

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: As I mentioned earlier, the partnership is working very well between the assembly government in Wales and between us and The European Tour. The partnership is going well.

RHODRI MORGAN: On course it's him. Off course it's mostly us.

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: But it's working well, and. By the way, this is a very costly affair for all of the partners.

This is a big affair, and whether it's massive changes around the Newport area; the logistics of moving in 60,000 people a day and out; so it's a big thing for Wales in total. It's a particularly big thing for Newport, and we are making the best of it in raising the profile to make sure people know who we are and where it is and have fun when they come.

Q. You left here last year, feeling the course maybe was a little bit too easy for The Ryder Cup. I don't know if that's the feeling.

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: Well, I find it very hard myself, you know. But I mean, if you remember right, I don't think Colin Montgomerie made the cut last year.

So it can't be an easy course for anybody and people that I talk to that are amongst the best golfers in the world, they say, "God, it's a tough course." It's very hard for me to judge because I don't play golf, but I can still talk to people and they say to me this is a tough course. Tough match play, I'm told. Have you played the course?

Q. Yes, it's played with me.

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: What did you go around? Did you have a good game?

Q. Scored over a hundred.

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: Oh, that's pretty good.

Q. The small building to the rear of the clubhouse, is that going to be renovated?

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: Don't you like it?

Q. If you are asking me

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: You know, you could go to the toilet and cook a breakfast at the same time. From that perspective, it's an unusual building. But it has some notoriety, people come and actually visit us and have dinner here just to look at the building.

But I leave that to Rhodri to talk about, because it does have some special architectural features in the window frames.

RHODRI MORGAN: Yeah, I can't really comment directly on what has caused it to be listed, but listed it has been and Cadw, the Welsh conservation body, one of these very unusual parts of the governmental machinery that is not susceptible to ministerial control, unlike Her Madgesty's over schools, there are parts of the government machinery which are independent of ministers, and Cadw is one of those, and they have listed it.

There are various strategies which they would be happy with, and there are various ways of dealing with the fact that people may think of it as an eyesore; I don't know what people's attitudes are, but between now and October 1, 2010, they may or there may not be changes in its present state. I can't say more than that at the moment.

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: The Ryder Cup is going to be good next year. A couple people have asked if they can rent that building for The Ryder Cup, so it can't be that bad, and The Ryder Cup must be pretty good.

Q. I think a lot of fears are from people who perhaps over the winter come and seen drainage work being carried out on the course; could you allay fears on that?

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: We did see many things it, but it's trimming stuff. There's nothing major. Russell, there's nothing major as I understand it.

RUSSELL PHILLIPS: It was just enhancing some of the drainage on the existing holes and the whole series of top dressing. But this was always in the programme four or five years ago, and that's all been completed now. So we have a full running for the next 12 to 18 months.

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: You've had a good look at this course time and time again, tell people from your perspective.

EDWARD KITSON: Sadly I'm not the agronomist but within our team at The European Tour and Ryder Cup, we have a specialist, and that's Richard Stillwell. And he has been visiting more or less every month working closely with Jim McKenzie and Russell.

There's been a big programme of work that's taken place on the golf course through the winter which has been focusing on the drainage of certain of the holes that were very wet last year. I think if you go out on the fairways this year you'll see a big difference and it's a really good change and good progress has been made.

Q. I was just wanting to ask perhaps all three of you what sort of legacy you think The Ryder Cup is going to instill on Wales, and perhaps the wider golfing community, as well?

SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: I think what happens is that there's many things yet to be revealed to the press that will end up I think pleasing people that had will become very memorable as an event in The Ryder Cup, legacy, as you call it. People won't forget this one. There's a lot going on, both on the technology side, on the events that will happen around it, and not just The Ryder Cup, but the things that are planned around The Ryder Cup. I think this will become a very memorable Ryder Cup event.

RHODRI MORGAN: Yes, it's about putting Wales on the map for us in that when we decided to form this partnership with Terry and The European Tour, or rather, the partnership with Terry and Newport City Council to begin with and to build for The Ryder Cup 2009, as it was going to be originally pre 9/11, if you recall.

Then our main motivation was because we thought that the Ryder Cup would put Wales on the map with a particular emphasis on putting Wales on the map with the American and maybe also the Japanese business community for whom golf is the game basically.

And when we won that competition and we formed the four way partnership with The European Tour, as well, to deliver the 2009, eventually The 2010 Ryder Cup, the primary motivation is to put Wales on the map where Wales has a deficit in its profile compared to Scotland, Ireland. We didn't want to continue to be Europe's best kept secret. When we say "put it on the map," that means a lot of things: Put Wales on the map in terms of business investment opportunities, the trade opportunities and trade partnership funds for people thinking of studying in university from U.K. and abroad, it puts Wales on the map for that purpose.

Filmmakers, thinking about making films or TV series in Wales, as well as the more focused bit of trying to encourage more golf tourism into Wales; and tourists, non golf tourists, wider than that into Wales. But there's about half a dozen different purposes, and we still believe it is going to achieve a once in a generation transformation of Wales profile abroad, but especially in North America and Japan.

SCOTT CROCKETT: George would, you like to comment on that?

GEORGE O'GRADY: I think the First Minister has put it very eloquently. I think a lot of the other emphasis of the planning like meetings we had this morning is to make sure a legacy is left in all of Wales, business wise and golfing wise, and that's already happening.

RHODRI MORGAN: I should mention the health benefits, as well, in the sense of what are we promoting, as you can see from today, the great Welsh outdoors, and promoting the idea that it's better to be out in that great outdoors instead of sitting in front of your television playing with PlayStation or a zapper or whatever.

You will no doubt have heard these dire warnings that 90 per cent of the children of Britain or whole western world will be obese by the year 2050 because they will be spending 45 hours a week on their PlayStations. And half an hour a week running around playing football or golf or anything else; we have to promote enjoyment of the great Welsh outdoors by way of walking or golfing or football or cricket or whatever. Sport is a major way of combating this huge public health threat of obesity among young people leading to an epidemic of diabetes Type II and heart disease and all of the other things that happen if you do become obese.

It's an enormous benefit that way, and that is one reason by Tenovus is our chosen charity. And please do visit the mobile clinic which Tenovus have got here which is trying to bring top class care, including cancer care and chemotherapy and so forth. And you will be amazed at the services provided by the mobile clinic, which is one of the consequences of Tenovus being adopted as the chosen charity for The Ryder Cup Twenty Ten.

SCOTT CROCKETT: One thing I would like to say, one of the good pieces of business conducted this week already is the news that Moët & Chandon have signed a new agreement, a renewal, to be the Preferred Suppliers of Champagne to The 2010 Ryder Cup at The Celtic Manor Resort and to mark that announcement, we would be delighted if you would join us at the back of the room to mark that announcement. Thank you very much for your attendance and enjoy the rest of your day.


 

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