Like so many sporting events, Golf has suffered worldwide during the Coronavirus epidemic. At a time when we could all do with some sporting action to watch during lockdown, it’s one of the many things in short supply. So when we tell you it’s now returned there will be much excitement among players and spectators alike. And if international golf is returning, then the Celtic Manor has to be the place to stage it.
The Tour got underway with two weeks in Austria. The first round of the Betfred British Maters however, was the one we were waiting for. Lee Westwood was the tournament host at his home course at Close House, It was the “official” start after four-months of nothing, thanks to the pandemic.
And the wait begins for the tour to get to us here in South Wales.
The Celtic Manor Resort is to celebrate the 10th anniversary of staging the Ryder Cup with European Tour golf back to their Newport resort for the first time since 2014.
The Celtic Classic will be held from the 13th to 16th of August, with the Wales Open teeing off between the 20th and 23rd of the month.
In a much needed announcement, European Tour chiefs announced plans to kickstart the 2020 season with the launch of a new six-week ‘UK Swing’ including back-to-back tournaments at the Celtic Manor.
Celtic Manor staged the Wales Open for 15 consecutive seasons on the European Tour. The tournament produced some unforgettable memories over those years and also strengthened the venue’s connections with the Ryder Cup.
After Denmark’s Steen Tinning won the inaugural Wales Open at the turn of the Millennium, Paul McGinley won the second tournament way back in 2001, helping him qualify for a Ryder Cup debut at The Belfry where he holed the winning putt. The Irishman went on to be involved in six of the last seven Ryder Cups as a player, vice-captain or skipper – and he won every single one of them, culminating in his impeccable captaincy of Europe’s latest victory at Gleneagles in 2014.
Paul Lawrie, Ian Poulter, Robert Karlsson and Miguel Angel Jiménez are among the other Ryder Cup stars to get their hands on the Wales Open trophy but the most dramatic tale belongs to Graeme McDowell. He secured his first tournament title for two years with weekend rounds of 64 and 63 at the Wales Open in 2010, won the US Open on his very next start and then returned to Celtic Manor to clinch the winning point in the Ryder Cup four months later.
Other players to have lifted the handsome silver dragon trophy include England’s Simon Khan, South African Richard Sterne, Frenchman Gregory Bourdy and current holder Dutchman Joost Luiten, who held his nerve to complete a dramatic one-shot victory over Shane Lowry and Tommy Fleetwood in September.
As well as thrilling finishes, the event has also seen a close shave with the European Tour’s first ever round of 59 (Phillip Archer 2006), one player scoring two holes in one on the same hole (Elliot Saltman 2011) and the European Tour’s record long drive of 447 yards (Nicolas Colsaerts 2014).
Complementing the top golfing action over the years has been a fantastic hospitality pavilion for corporate entertainment and a tented village where crowds have been treated to interactive challenges, trick shot shows and Q&A interviews with the likes of Wales rugby captains Jonathan Davies, Martyn Williams and Sam Warburton.
The Wales Open did not take place in 2015 as Celtic Manor invested resources in other events and projects, like the ICC Wales. This announcement however, shows that top flight golf will continue to be part of the resort’s future.
The golf season was suspended back in March because of the pandemic, so the resumption of the European Tour action has taken a while to happen and a lot of careful planning. It will be very different too. Initially the games will be played behind closed doors in July and run through until December.
As you can imagine, all tournaments will follow stringent safety and testing protocols set out in the Tour’s comprehensive Health Strategy which will continue to evolve over time, in line with international Government guidance and health guidelines.
The European organisers are hopeful that the draw of competitive golf will be worth the UK’s two-week quarantine period for international arrivals in the eyes of the players.
The first tournament was the Betfred British Masters hosted by Lee Westwood. It was played at Close House, near Newcastle, a week earlier than originally planned.
It then moved to the Marriott Forest of Arden for the English Open and then Hanbury Manor for the English Championship. The tour then rolls into Newport for the action at the Celtic Manor Resort. The tour will finish at the world famous Belfry, which has played host to four Ryder Cup tournament over the years.
Keith Pelley is the European Tour Chief Executive…..
“Since the suspension of our 2020 season in early March, we have taken a measured approach in reassessing our schedule, informed every step of the way by our medical advisers and government guidance.
“We have consistently said that safety is our absolute priority and that is why today we are announcing our resumption in two months’ time supported by a comprehensive health strategy which has been led by our medical team.”
“Without question we have had to think differently about the remainder of our 2020 season which is reflected in today’s announcement. As golf’s global Tour, diversity is ordinarily one of our biggest strengths, but in this instance it has become one of our biggest challenges.
“Initially, therefore, based on the expert guidance we received, playing in clusters, in one territory, is the best option in terms of testing, travel and accommodation.“
I would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank Betfred, Close House, Marriott, The Forest of Arden, Hanbury Manor, The Celtic Manor Resort and The Belfry for sharing our vision for this ‘UK Swing’ and we look forward to returning to tournament play in July with this innovative stretch of six events.”
“We recognise that when we resume playing golf, each player’s circumstances will be different. We therefore do not want to put anyone in a position whereby they feel they have no choice other than to play in certain events in order to protect their livelihood.
“Similarly, the feeling was that it was not fair to disadvantage any member who might want to play in an event but who might not be able to due to ongoing travel restrictions. Therefore, in consultation with our Tournament Committee, it was agreed preserving their exempt status for 2021 was the fairest solution in these unprecedented times.
“As a consequence, there will be no Qualifying School this year and no formal graduation from the Challenge Tour, although the Tournament Committee has agreed to reward exceptional performance on both the European Tour and the Challenge Tour in 2020, precise details of which we will announce in due course.”
Here is Keith talking about the tour and plans for the future. He also mention the incredible health benefits of playing golf, something we here at SOUTH WALES LIFE have written about a lot, and whole heartedly endorse.
If you’d like to find out more, just head over to the Celtic Manor pages and see what is happening with golf at the resort. GOLF