The Captain's Blog - Let's celebrate
Such a Perfect Day
If you remember, at the end of my last blog, I was just about to head off for the official ‘Year To Go’ Function at Celtic Manor so I want to take this opportunity to bring you up to date with what was a truly resounding success all round.
Everything about the day was absolutely perfect, from the gloriously warm autumnal Welsh sunshine to the sumptuous Gala Dinner in the evening and I know that Corey and Lisa Pavin, along with all the PGA of America officials who accompanied them, enjoyed the trip immensely.
As I said in one of my earlier posts, the warmth of the hospitality afforded to every visitor who comes to Wales is legendary and this time was no different, so thank you to everyone at The Celtic Manor Resort and also to all the staff at The European Tour who played their part in making the whole event so special…..
The day began when Corey and I paid a special visit to the Tenovus Mobile Cancer Support Unit. The unit, which is the official charity of Ryder Cup Wales and which was launched in February this year, enables cancer patients to access chemotherapy, cancer support and advice on money matters close to their homes at the heart of their community.
We were told that, since February, over 2,000 people have visited the unit as it delivers services throughout south east Wales, and through its partnership with Ryder Cup Wales and support from The European Tour, Tenovus hopes to fund a further unit delivering vital services elsewhere in the country.
As you know, this is a subject very close to my heart having lost my mother to cancer in 1991. I am very aware of the devastating effect the disease has on patients, careers and their families, which was the reason behind my decision to set up The Elizabeth Montgomerie Foundation two years ago.
Corey and I were extremely impressed with the work Tenovus is carrying out and it’s heartening to know that The Ryder Cup can play a role in helping the treatment of this terrible disease in Wales.
After leaving the Tenovus unit, we got our spikes on for a special challenge match over nine holes of The Twenty Ten Course where I partnered my old friend, BBC Radio personality Chris Evans, while Corey joined forces with Welsh operatic legend Bryn Terfel.
As you can imagine, there were a lot of laughs on the way round and it was a great idea that the four of us were miked up so that galleries, who walked behind us down the fairways like the old days of The Open Championship, could hear all the interaction between us.
Although absolutely nothing like the pressure the players will feel when The Ryder Cup tees off for real, it was fun for Corey and I to notice how visibly nervous Chris and Bryn were facing their own first tee shots on the day. They did well to get them away but I think they now have a little more respect for what we both have had to face for real in the past and what our players will face next October!
Befitting a day played in the perfect spirit, the match ended in a half when Chris’ 20 foot putt to secure a win for our ‘team’ on the final green just shaved the edge of the hole to theatrical ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the watching crowd.
Great fun….and who’s to say one player won’t be faced with a similar putt from exactly the same spot to win The Ryder Cup in just under a year’s time…..?
After a spot of lunch, Corey and I met the world’s media in the afternoon for the day’s official press conference. As usual there were several thought-provoking questions and in general I think we agreed on most aspects about the upcoming contest.
One thing we were definitely both in accord with was our praise for The Twenty Ten Course itself. Ross McMurray and the European Golf Design team have done a wonderful job merging nine new holes into the original Wentwood Hills layout while Celtic Manor’s Director of Golf Jim McKenzie and his staff have excelled themselves in producing a golf course in superb condition. I know it will prove to be a true gem for everyone next October.
After the conference ended, we both then embarked on a series of one-to-one interviews with various television outlets and radio stations as well as one or two special feature requests from a selection of the newspaper guys.
Let me tell you, it is amazing how time flies on these occasions. We sat down for the press conference at 3pm and I eventually got back to my hotel room at about 5.30! But, that is what it is like when you are The Ryder Cup Captain. Incredibly busy, but incredibly enjoyable.
The evening ended, as I said at the start of this blog, with a superb Gala Dinner at which around 700 people were treated to a delicious spread of food from the Celtic Manor kitchens in addition to some wonderful entertainment.
Corey and I did our bit when we were interviewed on stage by Chris Evans who I know had a great time along with his lovely wife Natasha -- who he actually met at Celtic Manor a few years ago when he played in The All Star Cup contest -- and their little boy Noah.
Chris is a naturally funny guy and put us both at our ease and, as a result, we both enjoyed our time on stage. There was a fair amount of hilarity but there were a few more reflective moments too, especially when Chris asked Corey and I to sum up each other.
I encapsulated Corey by using one word; 'competitor’ and went on to say that I know he will bring the same resilience and determination which flowed through his own playing career, to his time as captain. He returned the compliment by saying he would love to have ’12 Colins’ playing for him on his team next year. That was a lovely sentiment and one I very much appreciated.
As we both said at the press conference in the afternoon, although we will be trying our hardest to beat each other next October, Corey and I were friends before we were made respective captains of Europe and the United States and we will remain friends after it, whatever the outcome.
One final reflection on the Gala Dinner, I think it is fair to say, most of us think we can sing a bit. Whether in the shower or driving along the motorway, if a song comes into our head or on the radio, we all belt out a bit of the chorus at least, don’t we?
Well, I can tell you, you truly realise you can’t sing when you hear professionals do it properly and there are surely no better voices around than Bryn Terfel and the man who joined him on stage for the latter part of the evening, his fellow Welshman John Owen-Jones, who has enjoyed the lead in several West End shows such as Les Miserables.
I know the Welsh, as a nation, have a reputation for producing great singers but, gee whizz, these two guys must be the best in the business. I still have tingles down my spine thinking about the tone and power of their respective voices and their finalé together is something I’m sure all of us lucky enough to be in the room that night will remember for a long time.
Turning back to golf before I close, the quest for Ryder Cup points is now in full swing and in the last few weeks since my last post there have been several excellent victories on Tour including Simon Dyson at St Andrews, Ross McGowan in Madrid, Michael Jonzon in Castellon and, of course, Lee Westwood in Portugal, a win which took him back to the top of The Race to Dubai.
Talking of that, we are now entering the home straight in the inaugural ‘Race’ and I’ll be tuning in with interest as events unfold this week at the Volvo World Match Play in Spain and the Barclays Singapore Open, along with the upcoming WGC-HSBC Champions in China where, of course, Sergio Garcia is the defending champion, the UBS Hong Kong Open, the JB Were Masters in Australia and the season-ending Dubai World Championship.
All of these events offer big money prize funds where someone can take a significant step towards automatic qualification for my Team next October.
I wish good luck to all European competitors in action over the next month or so and remember, I’m watching……!
For more from Colin Montgomerie, visit his official web site at www.colinmontgomerie.com.