Ireland and the Ryder Cup – an irresistible combination
On 22 September, the focus of the golfing world will turn towards Ireland and the 2006 Ryder Cup. The Irish are proud and excited to finally have the opportunity to host this great golf tournament, which is now commonly regarded as the world's third biggest sporting event with only the football World Cup and the Olympics having a greater standing.
Almost since the inception of the tournament back in 1926 there has been talk of holding the Ryder Cup in Ireland . Up until 1979 the Americans squared up against a team made up solely of golfers from Britain and Ireland and there was an almost constant clamour on both sides of the Atlantic for the match to be held in Ireland .
The arguments for holding the event on the island of Ireland are manifold. From a golfing perspective Ireland 's case is certainly compelling. The country boasts no fewer than 440 golf courses, many of them world class championship standard. There is no country of a comparable size that can boast a greater concentration of wonderful championship links courses, nor such a diversity of fine parkland courses. And it has produced some of the finest ever Ryder Cup players including such greats as Christy O'Connor Senior and Junior, Fred Daly, Harry Bradshaw, Eamonn Darcy, Philip Walton and the more recent trio of heroes Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley.
Furthermore, the country's centuries old love affair with the game guarantees some of the most knowledgeable and respectful galleries to be found anywhere in the world.
Couple those factors with Ireland 's spectacular scenery, interesting places to visit and of course the legendary hospitality and the case is unassailable.
The lobby to hold the match in Ireland grew in force during the 1980s and 1990s following the crucial contributions of Irish players such as Eamonn Darcy, Christy O'Connor Junior and Philip Walton. The long wait finally ended when the Ryder Cup Committee voted unanimously in January 1999 to award the 2005 matches to The Kildare Hotel & Country Club – The K Club – in Straffan, Co Kildare.
Unfortunately, the tragic events of September 11, 2001 caused the postponement of the 2001 matches by one year and thus the K Club will play host to the event one year later than scheduled – this coming September.
It wasn't just Irish voices who were proclaiming the country's golfing greatness, however. The great Tom Watson used practice rounds on Irish courses as the launch pad for his record equalling five British Open wins; the late Payne Stewart followed suit and others who regularly visit Ireland 's great courses to sharpen their games include none other than world number one, Tiger Woods.
But the existence of a top quality golf course like The K Club is only part of the equation when it comes to hosting the Ryder Cup. The Ryder Cup is a unique event, not only in golf but in world sport, in that it pits 24 of the world's greatest golfers against each other in a matchplay format over three days with nothing but the honour of their respective teams at stake. There is no prize money nor individual ranking points to be gained – just the shared honour and glory of a team victory.
The event has remained true to this ideal since the first official match was sponsored by English seed merchant Sam Ryder back in 1927 – a year after he had witnessed an impromptu match between American and British and Irish golfers competing at that year's British Open.
While the matches were popular among golf aficionados for many years it was not until the 1980s that they began to reach a wider global audience. Its earlier, narrower appeal was probably due to the relatively one-sided nature of the matches.
Of the 25 matches staged between 1927 and 1983 America won an astonishing 21 of them with Great Britain and Ireland claiming just three and halving one.
The US dominance was leading to a growing level of apathy among the public and, it has to be said, some of the players. This led the great Jack Nicklaus to make a vitally important approach to the British PGA after the 1977 match at Royal Lytham & St Annes. He pointed out that urgent action had to be taken to introduce some genuine competition to the matches and suggested that the team, which had up to then been restricted to Irish and British players, be widened to include European players.
His suggestion was accepted and the European team was born. Very quickly the team benefited from the participation of all time greats such as Spain 's Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Canizares, Germany 's Berhnard Langer, and Sweden 's Jesper Parnevik.
The new formula wasn't an instant success, however, and the Americans won the next two matches by their customary wide margin. Things began to change in 1983 when the Europeans lost by a single point in the match at Palm Beach Gardens , Florida . Indeed, the Europeans came agonisingly close to achieving an historic first victory on American soil.
The tide turned after that with Europe winning six and halving one of the following ten matches. The dramatically improved competitiveness of the matches also led to increased public awareness and interest and helped transform the Ryder Cup into the truly global sporting event that it is today.
Anyone lucky enough to be attending the 36 th Ryder Cup in Ireland can be assured of both a feast of top quality action and a personal golfing and tourism experience second to none.
Top quality accommodation, fine food and drink, and the traditional Irish welcome will all be on offer while those that want to play some golf themselves will find that the K Club is within easy reach of some of Ireland 's finest and most famous courses such as Portmarnock, Royal Dublin, Delgany, Carton House and Druid's Glen.
For those wishing to venture further afield there is Mount Juliet in Kilkenny, Fota Island in Cork, Mahony's Point, Killeen and Ballybunion all in Kerry, Adare Manor in Limerick, Lahinch in Clare, Galway Bay Golf and Country Club in Galway, Royal Portrush in Antrim, Royal County Down in Down, and Laytown & Bettystown in Meath – to name but a very few.
Indeed, no matter what compass point you choose as the heading for your journey from the K Club you are sure to find a great golf course on the way.
And planning your itinerary for your visit couldn't be easier. Simply contact your local Tourism Ireland office or log on to Discover Ireland Website and you'll get all the help you need. Check out the three-golf-passes of which there is a good number available. These offer a good saving on green fees if you play all three courses.