Wales to host first Major Championship

01/09/2011 14:58:59
Richard Hills, Richard De Leyser, Andy Stubbs, Rt. Hon Carwyn Jones AM, JR Jones, Cllr Alana Davies (pic by Steve Pope) ()
Richard Hills, Richard De Leyser, Andy Stubbs, Rt. Hon Carwyn Jones AM, JR Jones, Cllr Alana Davies (pic by Steve Pope) ()

The Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex will be played in Wales for the first time in 2014 and the Wales Senior Open will also return to the European Senior Tour schedule next year through a £5 million agreement between the Welsh Government, The European Tour and The R&A.

The Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex will become the first Major Championship to be held in Wales when it is hosted by Royal Porthcawl Golf Club, South Wales, from July 24-27, 2014 before returning to Welsh shores on two further occasions between 2015 and 2024, on dates yet to be confirmed.

The Wales Senior Open, meanwhile, will make its return to the European Senior Tour schedule after an absence of one season when it is played at Conwy Golf Club in 2012 before moving to Royal Porthcawl the following year.

The Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex, which was first played in 1987 and became part of the European Senior Tour schedule in 1992, is the biggest event on the Senior Tour calendar and received Major Championship designation in 2003.

In July, American Russ Cochran won the title, which carried a prize fund of US$2 million (almost €1.5 million), and a number of golf’s greatest players have etched their name on the trophy, including former Major winners Bob Charles (1989 and 1993), Bernhard Langer (2010), Gary Player (1988, 1990 and 1997) and Tom Watson (2003, 2005 and 2007).

The Wales Senior Open was first held at Royal St David’s Golf Club, Harlech, in 2001 and has been won by such former European Tour winners as South Africa’s John Bland, Carl Mason of England and Spain’s José Rivero.

First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones, speaking at the announcement at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club, said: “I am delighted to announce that, for the first time, The Senior Open Championship is to be held here in Wales. Our reputation as a golfing nation goes from strength to strength.

“We have already proven that Wales can host top quality, international golf events. We have the facilities, the venues, the infrastructure and, most importantly, the welcome that all add up to us being a great host country.

“We have worked tirelessly to capitalise on the profile which Wales has gained from golf.  The value of golf tourism to the Welsh economy was £42m in 2010 and we will now use the Senior Open as another tool to promote Wales as a golf nation to the rest of the UK, Europe, the US and the wider world.”

Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of The R&A, said: “The R&A is delighted that the Senior Open Championship is to be staged in Wales and in particular at Royal Porthcawl. It is one of Britain’s finest links courses with a rich history of staging events at the highest level. We can be confident of an enthusiastic and warm welcome in 2014 when the Championship comes to Wales for the first time.”

George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, said: “The European Tour has a strong affinity with golf in Wales – Brian Huggett, Dai Rees and Ian Woosnam have all been Ryder Cup captains – and we are delighted that, on the field of competition, history is again in the making with the Senior Open Championship coming to Wales for the first time.

“Royal Porthcawl is a wonderful course that has hosted many outstanding events. These include the British Masters and the Walker Cup, and the Welsh Golf Classic on The European Tour International Schedule. Now we look forward to Royal Porthcawl hosting The Senior Open Championship and also the Wales Senior Open the year after that event returns to the European Senior Tour schedule at Conwy 2012.

“Each year the field for the Senior Open Championship strengthens in depth, and with players like Colin Montgomerie and Davis Love III soon becoming eligible we are confident the event will continue to grow in popularity for the players and spectators alike.”

Councillor David Sage, Deputy Leader of Bridgend County Borough Council, said: “As a local authority we are driving the multi-million pound regeneration of Porthcawl as a 21st century seaside resort and securing such a prestigious golfing tournament only serves to confirm our ambitions for the town. Porthcawl is an attractive area for every type of visitor from day-trippers to the surfers, and I’m delighted that some of the world’s finest golfers will now be experiencing some of what we have to offer.”

Royal Porthcawl Golf Club in Bridgend was founded in 1891 and has since developed a reputation as one of the Britain’s best links courses.  It hosted  the Coral Welsh Classic three times between 1980-1982 and the Wales Senior Open in 2009 and 2010  as well as the 1995 Walker Cup, featuring Tiger Woods,  when Great Britain and Ireland beat the USA by 14-10.

Conwy Golf Club, which was founded in 1890 and is set in a spectacular location along Wales’ North coast where the River Conwy meets the Irish Sea, hosted the Wales Senior Open in 2007 and 2008 and was selected as a Local Final Qualifying venue for The 2006 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.

These announcements follow the successful staging of The 2010 Ryder Cup at The Celtic Manor Resort, City of Newport, where the 12th edition of The Celtic Manor Wales Open was played earlier this year so continuing the rich tradition of European Tour competition in Wales.

A total of 30 tournaments have been played in Wales on The European Tour International Schedule since the official start of the Tour in 1972, while no fewer than 14 Senior Tour events and eight Challenge Tour events have been hosted by the country.

Colin Montgomerie, who as captain steered Europe to a 14 ½ - 13 ½ win in The 2010 Ryder Cup, is one of several Ryder Cup players who will become eligible to enter the Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex by 2014. The others are Miguel Angel Jiménez, Davis Love III, Ronan Rafferty, Scott Verplank and Philip Walton.

Rolex, the prestigious Swiss watchmaker, was recently unveiled as the Presenting Patron of The Senior Open Championship beginning in 2012 and continuing for a minimum of three years.