(Reuters) - Darren Clarke describes J.P. McManus as the “Irish Bill Gates” and is confident the billionaire’s crown jewel property Adare Manor will prove an ideal venue to host the 2026 Ryder Cup.
Northern Irishman Clarke, who captained the 2016 European Ryder Cup team, is delighted the biennial team competition against the United States will return to the Emerald Isle for the first time since 2006.
“J.P. has been a huge supporter of the European Tour for a long, long time,” Clarke told Reuters last week at the Champions Tour’s Shaw Charity Classic in Calgary.
“I am delighted that they have given J.P. the honour of hosting the Ryder Cup. He has invested hundreds of millions into (Adare Manor) and he gives so much of his money and time to charity causes.”
Indeed, attention to detail helped the resort earn the bid for golf’s premier team event, says resort CEO Colm Hannon.
The foundation for winning the Ryder Cup was laid not long after McManus bought 840-acre Adare Manor in County Limerick in 2014 and spared no expense in upgrading the entire property.
Of all the improvements, ensuring that the golf course met the European Tour’s detailed logistical requirements to host massive galleries was most important, Hannon said.
While the financial terms of the deal have not been publicly disclosed, it is no secret that the Ryder Cup is the European Tour’s biggest money-maker and it takes the event where it makes financial sense.
The Irish government backed the bid with promises to spend 50 million euros ($55.72 million) preparing for and promoting the event.
Adare Manor opened in 1995 and hosted the Irish Open in 2007 and 2008, both events staged without major hitches.
The course, nevertheless, was not Ryder Cup-ready, so McManus brought in American golf architect Tom Fazio for a redesign, which closed the layout for two years before it was reopened in 2018.
Fazio was tasked with doing his work while being cognisant the course had to accommodate up to 60,000 spectators, according to Hannon, who says the European Tour and Ryder Cup committee were very direct about what needed to be done.
“They told us the requirements we would have to satisfy as far as gallery movements around the course,” Hannon said in a telephone interview with Reuters.
“They went through hole-by-hole with us, looked at the old layout, the pinch points, (pointing out little things that were) not going to work here or there.
“That was the challenge (Fazio) was given, to build a course that allows gallery movement.”
The result, Hannon says, is a course that will pass its test with flying colours.
“There is enough space behind every green for grandstands and sky boxes,” he said.
Adare management keenly eyed the set-up for last year’s Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in Paris, where Hannon says they were particularly impressed by the grandstand behind the first tee, which had 6,300 seats.
Expect something similar at the 2026 Ryder Cup, though the exact capacity is yet to be finalised.
“Adare Manor is a much more picturesque sight,” Hannon said. “(Le Golf National) is a great course but built on reclaimed land.
“We have a beautiful river, lush parkland, mature trees, and a manor house standing stately in the background. We want to show off all these features.”
The location, just outside the village of Adare (population barely 1,000) is about 20 km from Limerick, Ireland’s third biggest city with a population of about 100,000.
So will the area have enough accommodation to handle the influx of visitors?
The Irish tourist body says about 11,000 new hotel beds will be needed for the event.
Hannon is not fazed.
“Fortunately Adare is extremely well serviced with motorways,” he said.
“The problem is (that) going through Adare is a bit of a bottleneck. It’s a picture postcard village. Plans are afoot... for a bypass.”
The local infrastructure will get a good test next July at the J.P. McManus Pro-Am, where a sellout crowd of 40,000 will watch a field that will most likely include Tiger Woods plus other greats at the two-day unofficial event.
Before then, Hannon and those who succeeded in bringing the Ryder Cup to Adare might just have time for a short celebration before getting back to work.
“This has been in the making over the last two years,” he said. “It’s nice it finally came together. Now it’s just making sure we take advantage of it to encourage golf visitors to Ireland.”
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Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; additional reporting by Steve Keating; Editing by Ken Ferris