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Fazio gives thumbs up to Portugal's proposed Ryder Cup course
February 3, 2011

Tom Fazio has completed the routing plan for his long-awaited first course in Europe and the renowned American course architect believes Comporta Links – the focal point for Portugal’s bid to stage the 2018 Ryder Cup – has the potential to rival anything he has created over the past 40 years.

Tom Fazio at Comporta Links

“It’s an incredible piece of land, but I knew that before I saw it,” said 66 year-old Fazio, who has designed over 200 courses in his native country and also works as the Course Consultant for Augusta National, Pine Valley, Oakmont, Merion, Cypress Point and several other leading American golf clubs.

“My son, Logan, who is now President of Fazio Design, came over for a preliminary visit and when he came back I couldn’t get him to stop talking about it.

“The land, with its impressive sand hills and its sandy sub-soil, reminds me of Pinehurst and as far as I’m concerned there is no bigger compliment than that.

Fazio and his team have made several visits to the site, and, together with co-designers, European Golf Design, the company behind the TwentyTen course at Celtic Manor, they have mapped out a spectacular 7,867-yard lay-out specifically designed to stage a Ryder Cup. It features a diverse collection of par-3s, par-4s and par-5s and a strong closing stretch built in a natural amphitheatre and capable of accommodating crowds of up to 50,000 a day.

“It’s a great opportunity for us and a wonderful place to build our first course in Europe,” said Fazio, whose career as a course designer started back in the 1960s when he teamed up with his uncle, George, an acclaimed Tour player in the Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Jimmy Demaret era.

“It would be fair to say that everyone at Comporta, from the owners, the Espírito Santo family down, will do everything in their power to win the bid to stage the 2018 Ryder Cup. That’s what we’re all working towards.”

“I genuinely believe we have the opportunity to build something special here... something that will still be around long after we’ve all gone.”

The new Comporta Links course is built on rolling land at Herdade da Comporta, about 110km from Lisbon and 140km from the Algarve in an area of known as the Alentejo Coast. It is part of a €1 billion tourist development which is owned by the Espírito Santo Group, one of the largest corporate groups in Portugal, and the owners of the country’s second largest private bank, Banco Espírito Santo. The resort will also feature a second golf course, designed by David McLay Kidd, the architect behind the new Castle Course at St Andrews, as well two 5-star hotels, two Apart-Hotels and a wide variety of real estate all built to the highest environmental standards.

Fazio said that the commitment shown by the Espírito Santo Group was the clincher when it came to his company accepting its first course commission outside America and the Caribbean. He also went on to explain why in the past he had been so loath to work in other areas of the world.

“There are some people who will tell you that the land is the most important factor when it comes to building a golf course but that simply is not true.

“We have got a great piece of land here but that wasn’t the No. 1 reason why we chose Comporta to build our first course in Europe. The No. 1 factor is who you work for and, here at Comporta, the Espírito Santo family tick all the boxes.

“Right from the start, we’ve been impressed by the stability, the commitment, the dedication and the support of the Espírito Santo family. When Logan came back from his first visit he said, ‘Dad, that’s the group, that’s the family we want to work for’. So that’s why (we’re doing it) now, that’s why here.”

Fazio went on to explain why it has taken him 40 years to build his first golf course in Europe.
“The reason is simple,” he said. “I have always had a plan in my life. I wouldn’t travel far from home while I had my children but, now they have grown up and left home, I’m free to travel the world and to accept some jobs I would have turned down in the past.

“My family has always come first, and you’d have to say I didn’t have much incentive to travel, either,” he added.

“I’d have to check the actual figures, but my house in Asheville, North Carolina, is about two hours from New York, two hours from Chicago, two hours from Dallas, two hours from Palm Springs and in that area I’d guess there has been around 4,000 course built since I started out in the design business back in the 60s.

“I have probably built about 150 courses within two hours of my home. There was no need to travel, but now there’s no reason to stay home which is why I’m here at Comporta and why we’ll probably do other overseas projects in the future.

“We’re going to put our name in Europe, put our name in Portugal. The time is right. We’re lucky to be here.”

Portugal is one of five countries bidding to host the 2018 Ryder Cup.

The bid has the full support of Portugal’s Prime Minister, José Socrates, and the Portuguese Government and is designed to leave a lasting legacy for Portugal, the Portuguese people, the European Tour, the PGA, the PGA of Europe and the 300,000 visiting golfers who already flock to the country each year.

The Portuguese see the Ryder Cup bid as the catalyst to launch the Alentejo Coast as the country’s third top-quality golf destination, alongside the Algarve and the Lisbon Coast.

The €1 billion Herdade da Comporta project is designed to be in harmony with its environment and has already received several prestigious environmental awards in recognition of its promotion of sustainable practices and environmental concerns.

The development of the Herdade da Comporta resort is part of a wider plan to build eight golf courses, 32 hotels and apartment hotels, fine restaurants and a wide range of other tourist amenities on the Alentejo Coast – all designed to enhance Portugal’s well-deserved reputation as a high quality tourist destination.

Ultimately, the development of the Alentejo Coast will create around 14,000 jobs in the area. Deloitte estimate a successful 2018 Ryder Cup bid will result in a €550 million boost to the Portuguese national economy, three times greater than the impact of the Euro2004 football event.








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