Celtic Manor the Scene as Sportsvibe Take on the 'Writer Cup' Challenge

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Celtic Manor the Scene as Sportsvibe Take on the 'Writer Cup' Challenge

When Sportsvibe received a call offering us the chance to take part in a sports journalists equivalent to the Ryder Cup - the 'Writer Cup' - to be hosted at Celtic Manor, we understandably jumped at the opportunity.

A chance to stay at one of the UK's most prestigious and exclusive golf resorts, as well as being able to play the course that hosted the 2010 Ryder Cup was always going to be hard to say no to.

Once the excitement had passed however, the realisation that one of us would actually have to play golf on one of the trickiest courses in the land started to set in.

On top of that, I would be representing Europe against six Americans who were flying over specifically for the event! I felt the occasion was perhaps a bit beyond my mediocre abilities on a golf course.

Nevertheless, I embarked on the train journey to Newport with a brand-spanking new set of clubs (Celtic Manor perhaps not the best place to try out new irons!) and two hours later I drew up to the resort in the recklessly driven taxi.

To say Celtic Manor Resort is an impressive sight to behold would be an incredible understatement. The place is absolutely astounding.


Ok, I'm not exactly used to five-star accommodation at a Championship golf club but the history of the place is so evident as you walk through the lobby. Photos of great golfers from the years (and my own hero Miguel Angel Jiminez) cover the walls as you make your way from reception to the rooms. I couldn't help but think of the greats from over the years that have walked the same corridors - Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Tiger Woods to name a few - and the realisation of where I was suddenly hit me.


I'll be honest, I really did not feel worthy to be there. That was quickly forgotten, however when I opened the door to my room. Like a kid in a sweet shop, quite literally, I helped myself to all the free nibbles as I paced around my luxurious digs.

A king sized bed, Sky TV, a balcony overlooking the beautiful fairways and my own living room area. I even had my own desk!

After my explore, I donned the provided Celtic Manor bath robe, complete with Ryder Cup golf cap, and proceeded to look through the itinerary for the next two days. Terrified at the prospect of looking a complete muppet on the course, you wouldn't have believed my delight when I saw Day One would kick-off with some clay pigeon shooting! So if was off to bed to rest for what was sure to be an action-packed day.

The morning began with everyone meeting in the lobby where all the Americans and Europeans got acquainted. The news of Osama Bin Laden's death dominated the conversation - perhaps not the lightest of topics for 9am but completely unavoidable - as we made our way in the shuttle bus to the shooting range.

Clay pigeon shooting is something I had never attempted and after missing with my first five cartridges, I managed to find some accuracy to finish top-points scorer and lead Europe to an early advantage over our American counterparts. However, as one particular journalist from South Carolina accurately predicted: "That's like winning the par three tournament at the Masters - and no winner has ever gone on to win the real thing." Good point.


From there it was back to Celtic Manor for lunch before the first outing of the 'Writer Cup' - a round of fourballs on the glorious Roman Road course. We were given our pairings that saw me paired with a fellow Englishman against two superior golfers. Sure, the handicap system came into play but it generally doesn't make too much difference when you're up against players who reel off ten pars and three birdies between them!


Fully accepting that defeat was inevitable, I managed to keep my temper in check and just enjoyed the occasion. As you would expect, the course was immaculate with fairways manicured to perfection and greens as smooth as silk, all set amongst the picturesque Welsh countryside.

After pulling our respective games together somewhat, we narrowed the margin of defeat but finally succumbed to a semi-respectable 5&4 loss to hand America the point. At the end of the first day's proceedings the scores were level at 1 points each with everything to play for going into Tuesday's singles clashes.

So it was back to the resort to scrub up for dinner. We were once again hauled into a shuttle bus to take us to The Newbridge on Usk, a pub restaurant owned and managed by Celtic Manor but a short drive from the resort.

A beautiful three-course meal followed - I went for a pork starter/main double with an apple crème brulee to finish - accompanied by a few too many glasses of red wine. By the time we got back to the hotel it was close to midnight and after a day of getting walloped on the golf course and with a belly full of food and wine, it was time for bed.

The final day started off with some much needed putting practice at the Adventure mini-golf course. Certainly the toughest and most creative crazy golf course I have ever played; each of the nine holes are replicas of famous holes from around the world. After negotiating my way around St Andrews, Pebble Beach, and Augusta it was time for the real thing on the Ryder Cup's TwentyTen course.

We were taken down to the famous clubhouse and shown through to the very changing room used by the Ryder Cup teams. Each player was allocated a locker with most sharing with a Ryder Cup participant. My name was displayed on the same door as world number 19 Francesco Molinari - now I really felt out of my depth!

I pulled on my navy Ryder Cup shirt and made my way down to the practice green where we were given our instructions and waited for our tee time. Another heavy defeat looked on the cards as I realised my opponent was one of the gentleman from the previous day.

As our tee-time approached, we had our photos taken next to the Ryder Cup sign and even had action snaps taken during our drives on the famous first tee. The photo may look good but the shot certainly wasn't as I sliced the ball left into the thick rough. One shot down and one ball lost. Not the start I had in mind but certainly the one I was expecting.

True to form, I proceeded to lose the first two holes and four balls in the process. I was offered a lifeline on the par 3 third after my accomplished opponent put two balls in the lake and I seized the initiative by crawling a stoke back. It proved, however, to offer me a brief respite before being dominated for the rest of the front nine.

After squaring the odd hole, the tie was well and truly over as we approached the iconic 15th. With it's driveable green only reachable by going through the trees it proved too tempting as I searched for my one Hollywood shot of the round.

Of course my moment of glory wasn't executed the way I had envisioned as I hooked my drive right to leave me with a steep downhill approach to salvage the hole. A poor shot and even worse putting saw my decision completely backfire and I sloped off to the 16th with my tail firmly between my legs.

The 16th and 17th followed much the same pattern as my disastrous attempts on 15 but I was determined to finish with a bang on the tough par 5 final hole. My finest drive of the day saw me out-distance my opponent and a little chip to the edge of the water guarding the green gave me the perfect chance to eradicate my struggles on the previous 17 holes. However, a chip into the back-left bunker all but ruined that chance as I stumbled to a bogey finish.

We were greeted at the clubhouse by our teammates, opponents and a waiter with a tray of beers where we discussed our various rounds. It was evident from each European golfer's story that the Americans had run away with it in the singles. That was confirmed when we were shown to the American room in the clubhouse - a stunning suite overlooking the 18th green - for a presentation and a tapas dinner. After a bite to eat and a few glasses of wine it was time to swap business cards, say goodbye and head back to the room ready to check out.

I may have made myself look foolish on the golf course and certainly had a large part to play in Europe's humbling defeat, but the occasion of the whole weekend was well and truly savoured. The sunburn and blistered lips that accompanied two straight days in the sunshine were definitely worth it after what was undoubtedly the best experience of my short and extremely modest golf career.

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