Italian Ryder Cup 'to spark golfing revolution'

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Italy is bidding to host the 2022 Ryder Cup. Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP
15:34 CET+01:00
Boasting a bird's eye view of St Peter's Basilica from the 17th tee the Marco Simone course could spark a golfing revolution in Italy if it wins the right to host the 2022 Ryder Cup.

"We are a country of 60 million people and we have only 100,000 golfers, so the potential is huge," Italian Ryder Cup bid chief Marco Durante told AFP.
"There is a perception of Italy as a small country playing a British game, but golf is now very well known in Italy. But there is massive potential to expand the game, and the Ryder Cup would provide the spark."
In competition with Germany, Spain and Austria, Italy showcased the merits of the spectacular Jim Fazio-designed Simone venue to Ryder Cup organizers last Friday.

Founded by and still owned by celebrated fashion designer Laura Biagiotti and her family the course hosted the 1994 Italian Open.

Durante, a former professional turned lawyer, believes bid inspectors departed the Eternal City impressed by what they'd seen.

"The Ryder Cup board has already studied many aspects of our bid but I think we left them with a good impression about our passion, as well as the support we have both from public institutions and from private companies.
"It's a fascinating course. From the 17th tee, you can see the dome of Saint Peter's on a clear day.
"It's only 14km from the very centre of Rome, the A1 motorway is close by, and a metro station that is already scheduled will be built one kilometre from the venue.
"I think officials were impressed with the closeness of the course to Rome as well as the various transport links for bringing people there."

Massive boost

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A steady stream of top amateurs and up and coming professionals are following in the wake of the 2009 World Cup-winning Molinari brothers Francesco and Edoardo, who were inspired by the feats of pioneering Constantino Rocca in the 1990s.
Matteo Manassero burst on to the pro scene five years ago when he beat a decades-old record held by Bobby Cole to become the youngest player ever to make the Masters cut, at 16 years, 11 months and 22 days.
Five months after turning pro in May 2010, Manassero became the youngest ever European Tour winner when he triumphed at the Castello Masters in Valencia, Spain.
Although Manassero is fighting his way back following a shaky period, the 22-year-old already has four EPGA titles to his name, including the 2013 BMW PGA Championship.
Close friend Renato Paratore, 18, has just completed a promising maiden season on tour that saw him tie for 13th at the Dubai Desert Classic, won by Rory McIlroy.
"Hosting the Ryder Cup would be a massive boost to the sport in this country," Paratore told AFP.
American great Tiger Woods was Paratore's idol, but when it came to the Ryder Cup "of course I always supported Europe!"
If Rome's bid is successful, school pupils the length and breadth of Italy could be ditching their footballs and basketballs for a set of irons and a driver.
"We have a number of driving ranges and smaller courses that are public, but if we get the Ryder Cup a good part of the budget is dedicated to introducing golf in primary and secondary schools," said Durante.
"We already have an agreement with the ministry of education about including golf in the school programmes."
Supported by top, golf-playing Italian sports stars, including footballers Alessandro Del Piero and Andrea Pirlo, a Ryder Cup in Italy could unearth a string of future stars says Durante.
"We commissioned an independent study that showed that 20 percent of the Italian population are interested in golf. That is enormous," he added.
"Hosting the Ryder Cup would give us the exposure to reach huge numbers of people. All the numbers tell us we just need the final push."

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