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K Club, trendy spot for the rich and famous

LONDON, Jan 15 - The decision to stage the 2005 Ryder Cup at the K Club -- a course that did not exist until 1991 -- was a victory for Irish business tycoon Michael Smurfit.

Smurfit, owner of the club, which meanders around the River Liffey west of Dublin, has poured millions into building one of the most fashionable resorts and finest courses in Europe.

The Spice Girls, sports personalities and business moguls are regular guests at the splendid hotel and club house which lies in the middle of the course.

Smurfit even overcame traditionalists who argued that the Europeans will be penalised by playing the 2005 match on an American-style target golf course.

The K Club overcame competition from well established Irish courses like Portmarnock and Ballybunnion for the first Ryder Cup in the country.

Smurfit is reported to have spent around 15 million pounds ($24.72 million) on his campaign to bring the Ryder Cup and its massive caravan of free publicity to Ireland.

A survey of 30 top players published last month showed the K Club -- short for Kildare Club -- was the favourite choice for the Ryder Cup and there is little doubt the layout is among the very best in the world.

"The K Club has the infrastructure we need, everything. It would be perfect for it," said Severiano Ballesteros, captain of Europe's triumphant 1997 team.

The course has hosted the European Open for the past three years, thanks largely to the enormous enthusiasm and financial commitment made by Smurfit, who is head of the paper and packaging group Jefferson Smurfit.

The five star hotel at the K Club, where original works by Irish authors and poets adorn the walls, will be expanded considerably between now and 2005 to enable players and top officials to stay there during the competition.

Thousands of spectators will invade Dublin, one of Europe's liveliest cities, for the three days of competition and the 30 km journey along narrow country roads from the city to the club could present major traffic problems.