Tim Finchem, perhaps the most powerful man in golf, has spoken words of praise about Wales and her staging of last year’s Ryder Cup.
“I thought it was fantastic,” Finchem said. “The last day was probably as good as any I have seen anywhere. It was great competition.
“I thought the galleries were the best I have ever witnessed in the world,” Finchem continued in an exclusive interview with Global Golf Post in his office at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. “One, they were big. That is always nice. Two, they were very knowledgeable. Three, they were partial to the European team but were considerate to the American team and applauded good shotmaking by the American team.”
Words such as these will come as a surprise to the inhabitants of the country that staged the rain-spattered, elongated but ultimately enthralling Ryder Cup last autumn. In their eyes, Finchem is the man who was responsible for the Ryder Cup being so weather-disrupted and an event that, despite concluding with an exceptional last-day’s play, was, overall, not so beneficial for Wales as had been hoped.
Finchem’s words were not spoken to ingratiate himself with the Welsh but they will do a huge amount to make the Welsh adjust their views of him. Up to now, for reasons that are understandable but wrong, he had been a figure of dislike. A saying in Wales goes something like this: “Tim Finchem’s mae ei enw fe’n faw yng Nghymru,” which means “Tim Finchem’s name is mud.”
What has the commissioner done to deserve such harsh words? The Welsh thought he singlehandedly spoiled the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to showcase their country around the world.
When Wales won the right to host the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort, it achieved a huge marketing tool. For nine years the country could promote itself as the venue of the third most important sporting event in the world. Wales could boast of its dragons and its castles, of the Celtic myths enshrined in the Mabinogion, its history at keeping out the barbaric English.
It could cite its success in attracting inward investment, as well as its culinary customs of growing and eating leeks (the national vegetable) of putting an egg on top of a toasted slice of bread covered in cheese and calling it Welsh Rarebit. In those nine years leading up to and including the event , Wales could do as much as it liked to promote itself as a golfing destination and bring in extra revenue and tourism.
If the figures that are bandied about after recent Ryder Cups are to be believed, then staging one brings in nearly $100 million to the host venue. It also brings in tourists, money and, well, more money.
But what happened last October? It rained heavily on the first weekend and Wales’ worst fears about the date were realised. For days, the Usk valley was shrouded in a mist that seemed to dampen the spirits of the Welsh, who can tend towards gloominess at the best of times.
At Celtic Manor last autumn, there were not very many television pictures of castles overlooking sandy beaches or views of verdant valleys. Instead, there were photos of mud and rain, of a golf course over which there was no play for nearly eight hours on the first day. Spectators sloshed through the mud and sheltered from the rain and all the time muttering “ Tim Finchem’s name is mud.”
Their reasoning: If he hadn’t invented the FedEx Cup and thus commandeered four weeks in August and September, then the Ryder Cup could have been held earlier in the year and the chances of it being hit by bad weather would have been diminished.
To those who said this, it didn’t matter that it wasn’t solely Finchem’s fault. The PGA of America, which stages the Ryder Cup in the U.S., had also agreed to moving the date back. So had the European Tour and the PGA on this side of the Atlantic. Yet the name that was on everybody’s lips in Wales was that of Finchem.
So to hear, seven months later, what Finchem had to say about the Ryder Cup was particularly interesting.
“The whole thing was quite a showcase for Wales,” Finchem said. “I don’t know how many people realise the impact Wales has on the arts. The concert (in the Millennium Stadium on Tuesday night) was very moving, and as I sat there I was thinking: If you are going to use a big event platform to tell a story, then this is how you do it. From Katharine Jenkins to the videos, it was a very well done week and I was fortunate to be a part of it.”
There is another verbal mannerism you hear a lot in Wales.
People end their conversations by saying, “so there you are.”
Let’s use that phraseology now. “So there you are, Mr. Finchem. Your name is not mud any longer. Diolch en vowr for those kind words.” (Thank you for those kind words.) We forgive you.”