My first official round of golf took place in France, on a municipal course just outside of Paris, and my biggest cheerleader in learning the game has been a Frenchman. That same Frenchman is also my favorite
Gregory Havret's 2010 U.S. Open run last summer... The French team's victory at the 2010 World Amateur Championship... those kinds of things tend to make me happy. So naturally, when I heard Raphael Jacquelin had won the (rain delayed) Sicilian Open on Monday, I was très heureux... to say the least.
This win was long awaited too, as they often are in professional golf. It was the Jacquelin's third win on the European tour the previous one being the 2007 BMW Asian Open. Four years... and a full beard later... Raf is once again in the winner's circle and France... along with Spain, Portugal, Holland and Germany... is about to find out if it will be hosting the 2018 Ryder Cup. The winner is to be announced at Wentworth Club on May 17th.
The French Ryder Cup bid is brilliant and players of all nationalities are speaking about Paris as a stellar venue. Lee Westwood talked about the final four holes at Golf National and the familiarity professional golfers have with the course. 2010 Captian Colin Montgomerie mentioned the global significance of the city of Paris. Tiger Woods weighed in as well. He reminisced on playing there in 1994 at the World Amateur Championship and revealed he'd only been to Paris a couple of times, but declared that it would be a great venue.
GolfNational. With Chateau de Versailles as a backdrop, a FanZone at the foot of the Eiffel Tower and till-you-drop shopping on the Champs Elyses... it's definitely a tantalizing picture, but what many are most impressed with in the French bid is its commitment to growing the game though the development of at least 100 urban golf facilities. These facilities would bring golf to areas where the population currently has little access, namely in and around urban centers. They'd be open to all and would not only provide top notch instruction and formation for future professionals, but would also be public venues where a casual golfers could play a casual round without stringent dress codes and with rented equipment. It sounds like a solid step towards increasing golf's accessibility.
For the time being I'm sure "Raph" is relishing his recent win... and hoping the French bid prevails.
Photos (top to bottom): Stuart Franklin/Getty Images Europe***Golf Girl Media***Clive Mason/ALLSPORT***Ryder Cup France***Stuart Franklin/Getty Images Europe