Jacklin: I won’t see Ryder Cup at Belfry again in my lifetime Former Europe captain regrets event has grown too big for historic Midland course
THEY are names synonymous with the Ryder Cup. Yet ‘Captain Fantastic’ Tony Jacklin does not think he will ever see the famous tournament return to the Belfry.
This year’s biennial golfing showdown between Europe and the USA kicks off at Le Golf National, just outside Paris, on Friday.
Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, on the outskirts of the Italian capital Rome, will then play host when the event returns to Europe in four years’ time.
No club has staged more Ryder Cups than the Belfry, near Sutton Coldfield.
Its world famous Brabazon course has been Europe’s designated venue four times, with the home side lifting the trophy on three occasions.
But Jacklin, who was captain when Europe clinched their first title at the Belfry in 1985, reckons it might be some time before golf ’s biggest team event is back in the Midlands.
“It won’t happen in my lifetime,” Jacklin, Europe’s most successful captain, told the Post.
“Logistically, these days it has to have Government backing.
“In France and Italy they have been able to prove they can take it and have the space to accommodate it.
“There’s the security aspect and a whole list of criteria now.
“I was told the one in Paris will be three times as big as the one at Gleneagles (in 2014).
“I find that hard to get my head around because I was at Gleneagles a week after the matches.
“They were still dismantling the spectator’s village and hadn’t even made an impression. It’s become massive, really massive.
“The debate as to where it will go in future is open to lots of different criteria. We are Europe and I’m sure there will be courses and venues built specifically in future to have the Ryder Cup.
“There’s so many venues emerging across the continent.”
It’s 16 years since the Ryder Cup was last held at the Belfry.
Europe, captained by Sam Torrance, beat the States 15 & a 1/2 to 12 and & 1/2 in a postponed instalment of the competition following the 911 terror attack in 2001.
And while the Belfry has been left behind, in some respects, by bigger and better new resorts, Jacklin feels the club will forever be ingrained in the fabric of the famous old tournament.
“The Belfry will always have its place in the history of the matches,” added Jacklin, who this week hosted a charity golf day at the Belfry in aid of Rainbows Hospice.
“It was where Europe got it’s start. It’s where the whole thing started.
“It’s absolutely still a very special name when it comes to the Ryder Cup.”
The Ryder Cup dates back to 1927 and was originally contested by America and Great Britain.
The British team took in players from the Republic of Ireland from 1973 and expanded once more, in 1979, to include the rest of Europe.
Those changes were designed to even things up after the Americans won 19 of the first 22 tournaments.
Jacklin was a 13-year-old boy in the crowd at Lindrick Golf Club, Yorkshire, when a Dai Rees inspired Great Britain upset their transatlantic opponents in 1957.
“That was the first time I’d seen world-class golfers,” Jacklin said.
“That was a great inspiration to me.”
Having landed 30 professional wins as a player, including two Majors, it was Jacklin who masterminded the next defeat of America in 1985.
“The victory here (at the Belfry) was extremely special because 28 years is a hell of a long time,” said Jacklin, now 74.
“I remember Bernhard Langer saying ‘I’m 28 years-old’. So it had been a long time.
“But the most special win was the Muirfield Village one (in 1987).
“It was the first time we’d won on American soil. It was in Jack Nicklaus’ backyard and he was captain.
“He was probably the only one in American golf who was big enough to take it on the chin and to not let it hurt his future.
“He was such a great sportsman anyway. There’s one first and that was it.”
The Belfry win in 1985 was littered with unforgettable moments, none more iconic than Seve Ballesteros’ monstrous tee shot onto the green at the par four tenth. Ballesteros was the mercurial talisman only out-scored that year by Spanish compatriot Manuel Pinero.
“Seve was intimidating – even to some of his own team-mates!” Jacklin admitted. “He was a complete maverick. “Pinero was a great match player and so was Seve – that goes without saying.
“There’s an intimidating factor about some players that others just don’t have. Seve most certainly had that.
“Match play is a different animal to stroke play.
“Stroke play by its nature is cautious. You don’t want big numbers on your card.
“But you can throw the wind in match play.
“You can make a ten and you just lose the hole.
“The Ryder Cup is about attacking golf. Some warm to it more than others.
“That’s why in 1985 I wanted three captain’s picks because certain guys are match players and others aren’t.
“There is no environment like it in golf, when you get out there as a team.
“There’s no hiding place. You are completely and utterly naked.
“You’re exposed and your game is exposed to the world.
“Millions watching on the TV and thousands watching live - it’s one hell of an experience.
“You have to be up for geous and have your shape.” caution to
The Belfry will always have its place in the history of the matches. It’s still a very special name when it comes to the Ryder Cup
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>Golf legend Tony Jacklin, who was captain when Europe clinched their first title at the Belfry in 1985 and again in 1989, pictured left >Jacklin playing for Team Great Britain and Ireland in 1973