France will host the 2018 Ryder Cup as the attractions of an established course and appealing legacy saw off a Spanish bid that gathered momentum following the death of Seve Ballesteros.
Le Golf National course in Versailles will hold the biennial match against the US as France becomes only the second country in continental Europe to stage the Cup after Spain in 1997.
As the established home of the French Open, the course, which is 32km from Paris, was considered to have a major advantage over Madrid, one of three bids based on yet-to-be built courses, but boosted by the wave of emotion following the death this month of Spanish golfing hero Ballesteros.
The spectacular course is one of the best in the world for spectators and can accommodate 70,000 people, with its finishing holes in particular ideally suited for the drama of match-play in front of deep galleries.
“They have a first-class tournament venue already built, which can take it,” said George O’Grady, chief executive of the European tour, after making the announcement at Wentworth. “In these tough economic times we can see where we are going. We are leaving nothing to chance on building a new course.”
France beat bids from Spain, Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands, which had the only other completed course.
Pascal Grizot, chairman of French bid, said it was a fantastic day for French golf.
“Having an existing course we thought it was an asset,” he said. “Having seen the other bids at first we thought not being able to build a resort around it might be a significant weakness, but we found a solution. We had a very well-balanced bid and in the end the details are making the difference.”
More than 400,000 members of the French golf federation agreed to pay an annual three euro (US$4.27) levy for 13 years towards a French Ryder Cup bid, which also has significant backing from the local and national government.
The bid’s commitment to building 100 new six and nine-hole urban courses to take the game to a new generation of players also counted strongly in its favor. Six million euros will be invested in the Golf National course before 2016.
“The French federation has a strategic plan to develop the game by building these 100 small urban courses,” Grizot said. “They will be close to the cities, less time-consuming, also the equipment will be cheaper so everybody will be able to play golf. I think they will be the real legacy of 2018.”
While France was celebrating, Spain’s representatives were left frustrated and their planned Tres Cantos course near Madrid may not be built now.
Their bid had gained momentum following Ballesteros’s death and an announcement will be made shortly regarding a possible change of the Tour’s logo to include an image of the Spanish five-times major champion.
Officials from the Spain bid and the PGA stressed that they tried to avoid the “Seve factor” after the passing of the man who did so much for the sport in Spain and captained Europe to victory in Valderrama.
“There wasn’t a single press release from me mixing anything Ryder Cup with Severiano,” said Gonzaga Escauriaza, president of the Spanish federation. “We could have done it because he was a huge supporter of the Ryder Cup, but we didn’t because we didn’t want to put that pressure on the committee. We thought it was not fair.”