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Tuesday, 11 December, 2001, 16:10 GMT
Welsh golf is 'best in Europe'
Phillip Price driving at Crans Sur Sierre
Phillip Price is one of those putting Wales ahead
Wales can lay claim to being the top golfing nation in Europe, according to figures released by the body which organises all the major tournaments across the continent.

The 2001 PGA European Tour Order of Merit has drawn up a list of its top 100 mens professional players and Wales, with a population of just under three million, is revealed as a sporting talent which punches above its weight when it comes to golf.

The results crown what is seen by many as the best year Welsh golf has experienced when billionaire entrepreneur Terry Matthews secured the 2010 Ryder Cup tourament for his Celtic Manor Resort complex at Newport, south Wales.

Ian Woosnam
Ian Woosnam: Wales's most famous golfer
It is against this background that the Welsh Assembly and sporting bodies have announced investment of more than £600,000 in bringing its homegrown talent into swing.

The PGA top 100 lists has Wales, with seven golfers, ranked first.

It shows Wales produces a European player for every 209,542 people.

This is ahead of countries with a much more celebrated golfing tradition such as Sweden, Scotland and England.

The next in the ranking is Sweden with 15 players in the top 100, a ratio of one-in-295,560 of the population.

Scotland is third with a ratio of one-in-316,856 seeing it end the year with eight players in the top 100.

Billionaire Terry Matthews
Ryder Cup bid success for billionaire Terry Matthews

England is sixth with 25 players, a ratio per population of one-in-997,460 .

The figures have been welcomed by Graham Davies, director of national development at the Sports Council for Wales.

He said: "Securing the 2010 Ryder Cup has obviously been the highlight in 2001 but in other areas, Wales has also excelled.

"Wales can arguably claim to be the most successful golfing nation in Europe with seven players currently ranked in the professional mens top 100.

"On a basis of head per population, this is more than any other nation - including Sweden."

A boy tees off
More than £600,000 is going on young talent

Mr Davies praised the performances of Welsh golfing talent such as Phillip Price, Ian Woosnam, Becky Morgan, Craig Williams, Becky Brewerton, Nigel Edwards and Ian Campbell.

To capitalise on the success of Wales's Ryder Cup bid success the Sports Council for Wales and the governing bodies for golf in Wales have unveiled a series of new developments for the game in Wales.

The sports council's Élite Cymru membership for 2002 will comprise nine professionals.

In addition, four amateur men and three amateur women are receiving the funding and support package which has already backed the likes of Bradley Dredge, Becky Morgan, Jamie Donaldson and Mark Pilkington.

A total of £640,000 is being invested by the National Assembly for Wales, the Sports Council for Wales, the Welsh Golfing Union, the Welsh Ladies Golfing Union and the Golf Foundation in the game's development over the next 12 months.

It will included the appointment of Wales's first full-time national coach, a national women's coach and a national girls' coach.

In addition, long term plans to establish a national academy and a facility plan, including two national and six regional training centres, have also been announced.

"Welsh joy has been matched by scottish bitterness"
"Celtic Manor owner Terry Matthews described the Welsh bid as irresistible"
Peter Corrigan, journalist Independent on Sunday
"This will revolutionise golf in Wales and do what the Millennium Stadium has done for Wales's prestige"
See also:

30 Sep 01 | Wales
Ryder bid 'was upped by £15m'
28 Sep 01 | Golf
The battle of a Ryder Cup host
28 Sep 01 | Wales
Lord of the Celtic Manor
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