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Wales Open future in question

07 June, 2010

Wales Open future in question

Celtic Manor owner Sir Terry Matthews casts doubt on the future of the Wales Open

Sir Terry Matthews has thrown the Wales Open's future into doubt as the Celtic Manor owner refused to commit to the tournament long-term.

The 2010 Ryder Cup venue's contract with the European Tour to stage the £1.8m event is due for renewal in 2014.

And Matthews told BBC Sport: "I don't know if 2014 will be the last Wales Open, we'll have to look at it but our commitment is until 2014."

The 11th Wales Open was won on Sunday by Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell.

Multi-millionaire Matthews, whose overall wealth is an estimated £975m, has spent approximately £100m on redeveloping the Newport hotel into a resort fit to host the Ryder Cup.

The Celtic Manor was announced as a Ryder Cup venue in 2001 and will stage the biennial United States versus Europe matchplay showpiece in October.

Matthews spent £20m on building a new Ryder Cup course and the appropriately named Twenty Ten staged last weekend's Wales Open.

The K Club in Ireland hosted the European Open before staging the last Ryder Cup in Europe in 2006 - but the County Kildare course no longer stages a European Tour event.

The Celtic Manor began hosting the Wales Open in 2000 - after agreeing a 15-year deal with the European Tour - to show the resort's golfing credentials prior to staging the 2010 Ryder Cup.

But Welsh golf fans fear once the Newport course stages the Ryder Cup the Celtic Manor could suffer the same fate as the K Club, and the Wales Open - one of just six regular annual golfing events in the United Kingdom - may go.

Asked if the Wales Open will continue after 2014, Matthews admitted: "Hum, maybe but with some changes.

"We've had 11 years of this so far and I think we have probably reached our peak with the Ryder Cup coming here. How do you go up from there?

"What more can you do with the site? What more can you do with the Wales Open and so on?

"We certainly have our plans but you can't always make the plans come to life.

"There is more than just the Celtic Manor in this, it is a function of ourselves and the European Tour and it is what we do in agreement with them."

European Tour chief executive George O'Grady has already stated he would be "disappointed and surprised" if the Wales Open is scrapped after the Ryder Cup.

And he insisted: "I think the Wales Open will continue."

The nearby St Pierre in Chepstow held the old Grand Prix of Europe, British Masters and the 1996 Solheim Cup.

But there are few courses in Wales that have the infrastructure could stage such a big tournament and offer the £1.8m prize fund.

Matthews recently revealed he is considering building a tennis arena on his Celtic Manor site in a bid to lure the world's best tennis players to Wales by staging a top-class tournament in Newport.

By Peter Shuttleworth at The Celtic Manor Monday, 7 June 2010


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