Golf: Top-Class Action during Our Summer in a Sea of Golfing Glory; PREVIEW: Welsh Courses Are Thrown into the Limelight as They Stage Six Major Competitions - Both Professional and Amateur
Byline: PAUL WILLIAMS Assistant Sports Editor
THE PEOPLE of Wales may have to wait another eight years to see many of the world's best players battle it out for the Ryder Cup at Newport's Celtic Manor but the successful Welsh bid is already pulling unprecedented top-class action to the nation.
This season sees Wales enjoy its second summer of golf with three professional tournaments lined up for some of the country's leading courses.
As well as the Wales Open at the Ryder Cup venue of Celtic Manor, the winning bid has brought the Wales Seniors Open to Royal St David's, Harlech, and the women's Wales WPGA Championship of Europe to Royal Porthcawl, both of which will look to build on impressive inaugural events last year in the coming eight weeks.
Although all three events are only in their infancy, they have already made such an impression that it is difficult to remember that, prior to the Wales Open of 2000, Wales had waited nine years to host a major professional competition.
And those memories will fade even further with the country committed to staging three top pro events for a 10-year period.
But it is unlikely that we shall see another summer as rich in golf as this one for quite some time because a happy coincidence has also seen three of the leading amateur events scheduled for Wales this season.
A true festival of golf has already seen the Amateur Championship played at Royal Porthcawl and its female equivalent, the Ladies British Open Amateur Championship, take place at Ashburnham.
Only a first Welsh winner since Stephen Dodd in 1989 could have made the Amateur Championship a greater success for club and country as the world's leading unpaid players faced a formidable challenge over Porthcawl's historic links.
An elite international field was sometimes embarrassed by - but always full of praise for - a course where the sea is visible from every hole.
Never is the Bristol Channel more in your vision than coming down the final fairway aiming, usually into the wind, to a green as unreadable as the ocean surf.
Spectators were treated to enthralling matches, including the 36-hole final which saw Spaniard Alejandro Larrazabal follow countrymen Sergio Garcia and Jose Maria Olazabal in claiming the prestigious title.
By defeating unheralded Englishman Martin Sell, Larrazabal not only captured Europe's most prestigious amateur trophy but also earned an invite to the Open Championship at Muirfield and next spring's US Masters at Augusta.
The finalists had ended home interest in the last eight when Larrazabal beat the Vale ofGlamorgan's Scottish international Jack Doherty while Sell saw off sole Welsh quarter-finalist David Price, another Vale of Glamorgan player who won the Portuguese championship in 2001.
Price went two rounds further than any of his home international team-mates but his compatriots made the most of home advantage at Porthcawl - and nearby Pyle & Kenfig for the strokeplay qualifying - to give Wales its most successful championship ever.
The nation has produced four finalists since Dodd's 1989 triumph came as the last of four for Wales in the 1980s but never has it taken six competitors through the stringent qualifying - where only 64 of 288 mainly plushandicappers survive.
And five of those survived to the last 32 to give Wales a real boost for another big event where they are looking to end a much longer run without a win.
Wales has never won the home internationals but their persistent knocking will grow ever louder as this autumn's series takes place on home soil. …