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May 28, 2008

Terry Matthews

Rhodri Morgan

George O'Grady


THE MODERATOR: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Celtic Manor Resort, and this the official launch for The Twenty Ten Course and Clubhouse. Thank you all for attending. I'd like to introduce you to the top table. We have the honorable, Rhodri Morgan, First Minister of Wales. Next to Rhodri is Sir Terry Matthews, Chairman of the Celtic Manor Resort and text to Terry is George O'Grady Chief Executive of The European Tour.
Terry, if I can turn to you first, give us your thoughts on this day for the Celtic Manor Resort.
SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: Clearly I'm very pleased to be hosting this official launch. It is nothing new for anyone here to understand that. I was very pleased to get a letter from today from Clarence House today. Prince Charles wrote to me and said: "If I may, I am writing to congratulate everyone associated with the magnificent achievement opening today. The creation of the new Ryder Cup Course and the Celtic Manor and the opportunities which this brings to Wales are on an unprecedented scale. In creating this new course, Terry Matthews is bringing to Wales the third largest sporting event on the globe and with it, and with The European Tour bringing a sense of pride in what this great nation can achieve. I wish you well, please give my congratulations to the Assembly Government, The European Tour, and the staff of the Celtic Manor, on and off the course this is a great thing." This letter is from Prince Charles and I was pleased to get that, and he continues to express a great interest in what we are building here.
Let me move onto a few comments. Let my first welcome Ken Schofield and The European Tour. We pledged to make the developments here at Celtic Manor, do the things necessary to ensure that we have the very best facilities for hosting the 2010 Ryder Cup. I would say on behalf of my family, myself and the Celtic Manor people here, we are proud of what we have created here. This is, as you know, the only course in history which has ever been created for this great event.
Our first club members are already enjoying playing this world-class course and reflecting on their rounds and the very nice clubhouse, and I'm sure you've all seen that; again, both specifically for The Ryder Cup. And for many years, we shall enjoy this facility, not just for The Ryder Cup not just for The Wales Open but for many, many events.
As you know, The Ryder Cup, we are expecting more than 50,000 people a day, that 50,000 people will come here to see the event. You will see that we have taken advantage of the side of the hills to create quite an arena for the spectators, being able to handle crowds in very, very large numbers. Whether that's during the play or whether it's around the play, or whether it surrounds the play with the areas for the tented village, the areas for bringing in and out vehicles. Some areas are not yet completed; whether it's the on- and off-ramps from the major highways or whether it's, in fact, monster bus parks to bring people in and out. I mean, it really is designed to accommodate giant crowds, and already with The European Tour, we are looking at events even beyond The Wales Open and the Ryder Cup. You'll find the best facilities ever for the players, the best facilities ever for the spectators and for the sponsors.
So what can I say more? The course designers have taken full advantage of the hillside and the environment in the valley. I think it's really good to see those closing holes with high visibility for the spectators, great viewing over the entire valley below. I think we can safely say that this will be the most spectator-friendly event for The Ryder Cup ever, and with some really.
Exciting tests of the match-play strategy on many of the holes and many of the players that come here regularly now give me terrific feedback. This is indeed a great course. There are water hazards on about 50 per cent of the holes. The entire thing adds up to about 7,500 yards. It's quite a monster course, par-71. I wish I could get a par-71; I tell you, maybe one day I'll get there. But it is definitely going to test the best, and in The Wales Open this week and in the Ryder Cup 2010, we should see some terrific action.
That's pretty much what I have to say. I'm very pleased with it. I think everybody participating, whether it's the European Tour, whether it the Wales government, whether it's the City of Newport, officials in government, we have all worked quite well together as a team to pull this off.
Still a few things left to be done on the infrastructure side and plus car parking not completed yet and some additional resort facilities which will be needed; as an example we still have to complete quite a few additional rooms and facilities for people to stay, and there's still a bridge to be constructed across the River Usk. All of these are pretty large events but well within the scope of our plan to get it done on time. I think you'll find as you look around, the course is very nicely burning in and I get great reports from the best players. So for me, a very, very good day. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Sir Terry. I would now like to invite the First Minister to say a few words.
RHODRI MORGAN: Yes, it is just a few words really just to say that this is Wales' equivalent of the Olympics. You know, Wales is a country far too small to be able to host the two biggest events in the world, the Olympics or the football; or as they would say in America, soccer, World Cup. We can't do those two events. But we have gone for, and will be delivering in two years' time through this remarkable partnership of private and public sector the third bigger sporting event on the planet in terms of TV coverage, and this is The Ryder Cup.
In each Ryder Cup, as in Valhalla this year and back in Europe for 2010 when it comes to Wales for the first time, we look back at previous Ryder Cups and see we have to do better than anybody has done a previous Ryder Cups; because what the previous Ryder Cups have done is a benchmark, and we have to try and exceed those in terms of the kind of match that comes over on the television. We can't control the play or the players or whether it goes down to the last hole on the last day or not. That's down to the players.
What we can do, if we are lucky enough to have the potential to do it, is to provide everything else that will make it the best Ryder Cup ever; and having a new course, the first one specifically designed for a Ryder Cup, that's one reason for expressing a degree of confidence that will this be the best Ryder Cup ever. And second, the sort of half of a natural amphitheatre that we have so that people can sit and be or be standing on the hillside looking down over 16, 17 and 18 and get a view that I don't think spectators have gotten in previous Ryder Cups, and certainly not at K Club in County Kildare; but we are experiencing County Kildare at the moment. But it's May now, it's not Ryder Cup time. We don't know what will be happening; the other thing you can't control is obviously is obviously the weather.
But The K Club obviously being on a flat site; the Belfry, fairly flat, really, with the occasional undulatation. But for here, it's the use of the Vale of Usk and the way that people will get an impression, whatever country in the world they are tuning in to watch the 2010 Ryder Cup they will see a great golf tournament against the backdrop of fantastic scenery and will be seeing very enthusiastic spectators able to get a view of the closing holes on each day such that they have not seen on television before.
So you'll get the players producing the excitement, you'll get half of a natural amphitheatre producing the excitement, the response from the spectators, and whatever country you are in of the 300 million people or so who tune into The Ryder Cup will be able to generate their own excitement in their own living rooms by watching the crowd respond to what the players are doing against a fantastic backdrop of the Vale of Usk, which will leave them in a very good impression of Wales.
Wales is a location for golf tourism obviously and is a location for tourism in general and Wales is a location for making if I may and TV series in general and Wales is a focus for inward investment for come to study or university or come to take up jobs in professional cap tie for whatever it might be, it's going to give them a very, very good impression of Wales and that's why we are deeply impressed probably not as much as Terry is, because Terry obviously owns the place. But it's a partnership between the private and public sector, between Newport, ourselves CMR and The European Tour in putting on what we are increasingly confident now will be the best World Cup ever, and that will be the benchmark of whoever is doing it in 2014 and 2018 to see whether they can fulfill the impossible job of exceeding what we will have done in 2010.
SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: How is your golf game Rhodri?
RHODRI MORGAN: A par of 71 would suit me fine on this course.
THE MODERATOR: If I can now turn to George O'Grady for some words on behalf The European Tour.
GEORGE O'GRADY: First Minister, Sir Terry, I think you've said everything that needs to be said about what's happening here and your commitment.
But if I can go back just a few years to start it was just over ten years ago that Ken Schofield and myself first met Sir Terry Matthews, and you didn't need long to realise, here was an exceptional man. I think in the time since we met him, we've just seen the unrelenting pursuit of perfection that he drives all his businesses with, and certainly this one. He told us about how he got Robert Trent Jones to try to build one golf course here and then he wanted The Ryder Cup, and he wanted it to be the best facility for a Ryder Cup that he could dream of.
Now, together with Robert Trent Jones's initial plans and the work of our own design company, European Golf Design, I think we have a masterpiece out here and the reason I say that is because so many players who have played it already have told me so. Padraig Harrington came here on Monday and played; the rain delay we have now means we have talked to a lot of players in the clubhouse this morning, and we talked to quite a few at the gala evening last night, which is so popular, as has every Wales Open been since we have first come down here. There's not one other tournament that looks after our players better than here in Wales.
We are really looking forward to The Ryder Cup in 2010. We are making the announcement today on a slightly sad note, because Dai Davies, I don't think he was Welsh, but I think his parents were certainly Welsh; so of Welsh extraction, and his funeral is today, which is why a lot of national journalists are not joining us. But they have asked me through their chairman to say best wishes to everybody connected; they are with you in spirit. And he's a very popular journalist, and I think that tends to conquer at times.
I think outside that, everybody connected with Celtic Manor, the whole thing down here, we have a steering committee that meets regularly, and it's chaired by your First Minister. That has not happened anywhere else in any Ryder Cup, and that leadership, that vision and that drive give us great confidence.
Only one thing doesn't, and that's coming down from the sky, and with the dates being October 1-3 in 2010, all I can say is good luck, and I hope it goes well and thank you for this marvelous occasion today. Well done.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, George.

Q. Can you talk about the economic impact in the region?
RHODRI MORGAN: I've seen the figures and they are probably not quite in the level of details that you want, but certainly golfing visitors increased by 18 per cent between 2004 and 2006. Those are the figures we have from 139,000 to 165,000 in 2006, and then we got a spend figure for 2007 of 26 million, and that's an increase of 13.5 per cent on 2004.
Now, I say that against a background where 2005 and 2006 were good years for tourism in Wales and 2007 was certainly not a good year so for golf tourism it is bucking the trends, indeed, apart from weather-wise we hope 2008 will restore the good trend that we have in 2005 and 2006. Certainly 2007 was bad but not bad for golf tourism; golf tourism was up, but tourism in general is down.
So it shows that if you offer something special, and golf tourism in Wales is a bit special, then you can buck an overall trend.

Q. Is that one of the reasons golf courses are still evolving?
RHODRI MORGAN: We know that what you call general -- sea side holiday which people used to do in droves in the northwest the of England and London and Birmingham and Wales, that has tended to migrate to Spain, Greece, Turkey, etc., so specialist tourism, activity-based tourism, sports tourism, heritage tourism all of these niche areas of tourism is a way of resisting the fact that your old-fashioned basic Spain holiday has migrated from Wales to originally to Spain and now increasingly to lower cost countries like Turkey. But what we can do is provide the specialist holiday that people are still wanting to do and which they can't in get in Turkey; they still want to come to Wales for that.

Q. Do you have any estimate for five years following?
RHODRI MORGAN: Well, no estimate yet, but the great thing about having The Ryder Cup is that the benefits are already perceived in Wales years before it actually happens. It's not just a one-hit event and the legacy -- and still is -- the way the courses will have become built and popularised through the Seniors Tour, through the ladies championship as well as The Ryder Cup championship itself, it does put Wales on the map. Previously you automatically think of Scotland in golf terms. In recent years they have been thinking of Ireland and Scotland, not quite in the same breath but there's been a huge push in Ireland linked to The K Club and hosting The Ryder Cup in 2006, there's been a huge investment there in new courses and that's one of the reason why is we are trying to popularise courses all around Wales and improve the player base in Wales; it's good for your health, it's good for sport, and it's also good for tourism.

Q. Do you have plans for Wales after The Ryder Cup?
SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: I can't tell. I am a very progressive individual in terms of doing more here. As we discussed earlier, there will be facilities that are unprecedented in the nature of the game. No one ever built a course specifically for The Ryder Cup with facilities big enough to handle 50,000 people a day, easily, coming in and out. It's kind of a special thing to do. It's different. No one even in the U.S. has done such things on a scale like this. It really is quite different.
As an example, give me the name of the club with a locker room that has a fire and a lounge and open fire for the players. One could argue it's a little over the top; perhaps it is, but I think the game deserves it, and the nature of the game I think with The Ryder Cup. The numbers keep going up for each Ryder Cup event, so this is not a usual facility for golf. It's way out of the normal.
After that, it's the access to the M4 and the M5, A449 dual carriageway with dedicated access that we've built and Newport Station not being that far away on the mainline train from Addington, accessibility of this course by comparison with most golfing resorts is really quite spectacularly built. And that's another aspect of the 2010 Ryder Cup which will make it unusually accessible to people coming from all over the U.K. and indeed via Heathrow, really two hours from Heathrow, and you can't get lost on the way; that will enable it to last for a very long time as a premiere golf venue as it is establishing itself via The Wales Open and then obviously spectacularly in 2010.

RHODRI MORGAN: I see the resort here as more than just a platform for launching Wales. As I discussed earlier, there is not a facility like this anywhere else where ever you go. I'm of the humble opinion that The European Tour will grow dramatically into continental Europe and beyond those borders. I think golf is becoming more and more a worldwide sport and raising the profile that is China, some of you may be familiar with Mission Hills, my good friends, the Chus, whether it's India, Pakistan, Russia, Brazil, some of the highest-built areas in the world are embracing more and more this sport.
So for me, we can talk about it as the platform for launching Wales; that's what we've discussed. We can talk about it in a large environment and talk about the United Kingdom, or in my terms, Europe and the rest of the world, so my vision for the Celtic Manor with this Twenty Ten Course is a world venue for doing things on a world scale, even up to the level of The Ryder Cup, and with our partners The European Tour.

Q. With regard to Wales developing golf as industry --
RHODRI MORGAN: I think that's a package that you have to put on, it can't just be based on one golf resort like Celtic Manor. I mean, you could come here and spend a week because you've got 3 1/2 courses and here, and so somebody could come here and play just for a week without really getting tired of the sameness of staying in one place. But golf packages people normally want to play a parkland course, a links course especially if they come from the U.S. because they don't have that many links course and Wales is filled with links courses and parkland courses like this one.
So golf packages, golf tourism is up, because we are now getting on the map side-by-side with Ireland and Scotland and parts of England with a lot of outstanding courses. So the American tour package organisers now don't just think Scotland and Ireland and an occasional dip into England and very, very rarely a dip into Wales; they are now including Wales because they have now somehow got us in the front of their thoughts because they know about the Ryder Cup. They know about some of the good links courses that we have got dotted around Wales, and the phenomenal views that you get playing and the sort of wonderful shot-making it can cause you to do. And if you go home to America, your golf game will have improved and your social life will probably have improved and you'll have a wonderful and very, very memorable week.
SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: Let me add to that. We have information about visitors to this part of the world at the Celtic Manor, they invariably come on a tour and start at Celtic Manor partly because of the buildup and publicity around The Ryder Cup for 2010. To add to the remarks that Rhodri made, we have people coming through Europe from Germany, from France and from Italy and Spain, enjoying it enormously and coming here to the Celtic Manor and using it as a base to go on. We get hard evidence of such things that we would never have had five years ago as an example.
So it's definitely happening, there's no question about it.

Q. In the early days of the development of The Twenty Ten, environmentalists had some issues with it.
SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: And people interested in the history as you know this, valley was very heavily used by the Romans, partly because out of the 20,000 legionnaires the crack troops were all applied by Roam to Britannia, was it Britannia or -- what did they call it? Cambria was their name, that's right. So 20,0000 crack troops supplied to the United Kingdom and 5,500 were stationed here in the fortress. Well, that's more than a quarter of the entire country. This is because the Ceruleans were such rough people to deal with, today they are out there on the rugby field. But in those days they were just an annoyance.
So the Romans were in this part of the world for 270 years, and of course this evidence comes in the form of an amphitheatre and lots of digging around this area, particularly where The Ryder Cup course is to establish the history of the Romans, we found all kinds of things. Maybe you're not aware of the ironworks found here, the number of trader warehouses along the river bed.
RHODRI MORGAN: No early golf courses, unfortunately. That would have between quite cool.
SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: Yes, finding a Roman golf course would have been something else.

Q. So what have you done to ensure that the environmental and heritage aspects --
SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: That was an enormous part of the development. I mean, to satisfy people of those stripes is a huge amount dye to cast, and it's the right thing to do. You know, in this part of the world, it's quite an ecosystem in its own right in the valley, and it's a lot of work to get that done right.
RHODRI MORGAN: The Americans, as well, they like the idea of playing golf in an area that adjoins a very major Roman fort. It's the kind of thing they read about on school but can't experience on their own continent, they love it, absolutely love it.
SIR TERRY MATTHEWS: Some people might be surprised at the tumbledown house next to the clubhouse and there are some window frames in there that will put into place in 1600, so it's over 400 years old. Now many people would simply tear it down. Well, that's not an appropriate thing here because it has quite a lot of heritage attached to it. And we do our best to protect it, as is.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your attendance.

End of FastScripts

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