2022 Ryder Cup provides huge opportunity for Italy

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick June 24, 2020 12:24

The Marco Simone Golf and Country Club will play host to the Ryder Cup in 2022, as Italy welcomes the prestigious competition for the first time in its history. The course situated in Guidonia Montecelio – a shade outside of Rome – was chosen ahead of other venues on the continent, including Germany, Austria and Spain. Only two countries outside of the United Kingdom and Ireland have hosted the Ryder Cup – Spain and France.

Spain capitalised on the popularity of Seve Ballesteros in 1997 when they earned the right to host the event at the Valderrama Golf Club, Sotogrande. Seve was arguably the most famous golfer in the world at that point of his career, although he was the non-playing captain at the event and Jose Maria Olazabal was the main draw for Spaniards backing the Europeans. The crowds turned up in their masses to watch the Ryder Cup. It made a lasting impact as Sergio Garcia, Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Jon Rahm have since represented Europe. Garcia expressed his belief that participation in the sport spiked due to the presence of the competition.

It raises the question whether Italy could experience the same benefit? Italy is not renowned for its love of golf. According to research conducted in 2019, there are only about 2500 golf courses in the country, while just over half of them are 18-hole courses. It’s surprising given the amount of tourism that Italy generates that they would not seek to further capitalize by attracting additional sources of revenue.

There are of course a million and one things to see and do Italy, especially in Rome and Milan, while the landscapes of the coastal cities and enjoying the warmth of the Mediterranean are more often on the agenda than a round of golf. The government are beginning to take action to raise awareness of the sport, launching the Italy Golf & More website to promote courses around the country. They took a major step forward by securing the right to host the Ryder Cup, but there’s no guarantee whether the competition will be an overwhelming success.

Marco Simone Golf and Country Club. Image from Facebook

Francesco Molinari was the star of the last Ryder Cup, winning all five of his matches to guide Europe to the crown. The Italian will be crucial to their hopes of defending the title in America, with Padraig Harrington’s men being backed in the golf betting odds at +150 to pull off the victory, and +1100 for a tie that would see them retain the trophy. Molinari will be the poster boy for the 2022 tournament and host nation will be desperate for him to make the 12-man team, although he should be a lock for at least a wildcard spot.

The 37-year-old’s appeal alone will attract the locals to the venue, although he is not quite the figure that Ballesteros was in 1997 for Spain. The competition will be boosted by the fact that there will be no shortage of fans from elsewhere in Europe and the United States flocking to the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club for the three days of the competition. It’s always a well-attended event, although the passion of the local fans can make or break whether it’s a success.

France was able to deliver a successful tournament in 2018 at Le Golf National in Paris, providing a massive boost to the economy of the country. It was estimated that 270,000 spectators attended the three days of the Ryder Cup, bringing in up to €235.7 million ($265.7 million) to the French economy. The Italian government will be licking their lips at the prospect of receiving that level of income.

However, reports out of France since the end of the tournament have suggested that the game remains a minority sport, which may convince the money men to return, but maybe not the golfers. Italy has to be prepared to make the most out of its opportunity to embrace the Ryder Cup not just for 2022, but beyond as well. It’s a huge moment that could see a wave of golfers of the calibre of Molinari and his brother Eduardo emerge from Italy in the future.

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick June 24, 2020 12:24
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