In early September, seven European nations entered bids to host the 2022 Ryder Cup.
The process showcased the evolution of golf as the prestigious event has only once left the British Isles in its history. In 1997, Valderrama Golf Course in Sotogrande, Spain hosted. Such was the influence of the late, great Seve Ballesteros.
But since then, the tournament has followed the status quo even as players from Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Italy, and Belgium have competed for the Europeans. The 2022 Ryder Cup bids reflect that change. Three of the aforementioned nations– Germany, Italy, Denmark –as well as Austria, Portugal and Spain officially applied to host the 2022 Ryder Cup.
Then Turkey applied…
While Austria and Portugal raise some eyebrows, at least they have some sort of golf history. Austrian Bernd Wiesberger finished T15 at the 2014 PGA Championship and Portuguese Ricardo Santos won the European Tour’s Rookie of the Year in 2012.
Turkey, on the other hand, is an obvious outlier. The nation, with great traditions in team sports like soccer, basketball, and volleyball, has produced a single professional golfer.
Hamza Sayin, 28, has struggled to make an impact on the European Tour. He’s currently competing on the Challenge Tour, the Web.com equivalent on the continent. But that hasn’t hindered the Turkey Federation, which was founded in 1996, from aiming high. A 2013 Yahoo! article outlined Sayin’s plight. Its title? “First Turkish pro Sayin carries hopes of a nation.”
Despite the youth of the sport in Turkey, Ryder Cup Europe expressed delight in all seven nations’ bids when they were announced in September. It was a hopeful reaction if anything.
The criteria laid out for hosting the Ryder Cup includes demonstrable golfing community support, commitment to development of a world-class golfing facility, provision of ancillary facilities, and commercial opportunities associated with the Ryder Cup.It’s not that Turkey doesn’t fit the criteria. But it will struggle to get there in the eight years prior to the 2022 Ryder Cup.
That’s a moot point now, however. The Turkey Federation withdrew its bid last week amid environmental concerns. Without a suitable course to stage the event, Turkey would have had to clear trees to build one.
Turkey’s withdrawal represents a setback, but the initial endeavor is encouraging. Critics have complained about golf’s waning popularity for what feels like years now.
The fact that so-called non-golfing nations want to host the Ryder Cup is both a good sign and an intriguing one. There’s no limits to the game. In eight years, it might be Austria or Portugal shocking us all. And who knows? Turkey might send a representative there.