Pascal Grizot, Vice President of the French Golf Federation, helped secure the Ryder Cup’s first appearance in France.
I have spent 10 years of my life, as a volunteer, trying to organise the Ryder Cup and it hasn’t been easy. The government had Euro 2016 to organise and then France was also part of the bidding process for the Olympics, which meant the Ryder Cup was not always a priority. That made it a huge challenge. When we decided to bid, we knew we had five opponents: Portugal, Spain, Germany, Sweden and Holland. I went to Wentworth the day after to say that we would like to host the Ryder Cup and when I looked at the odds, we were fifth of six countries at the start. It took a big effort, but I couldn’t imagine that we could lose.
We were able to demonstrate that we had the budget. The cost to host the Ryder Cup is approximately €40 million, and we had nearly half that (€18 million) from members of the French Golf Federation. We had another €2 million from our own accounts, and then the government and private sector gave us €10 million each.
Having a course fit and ready to host it was a big advantage. We were the only bid that was supported by then captain Colin Montgomerie. Thomas Bjorn also supported it, and Paul McGinley. They were not doing that because we were paying them. They thought it was the best decision for the European Tour.
If you have the opportunity to host the Ryder Cup, you need to write a nice story. Ours was being able to help the development of golf and build 100 urban courses. When you want to develop golf in France, or any country, the main reason people don’t play golf in France and in any country is because it’s expensive and time consuming. By building compact courses, you spend less time playing them and they cost less. With this concept, we have solved these two problems. We’ve built 98, and we have 35 others ongoing so we will be over our objective.
Because the members of the French Golf Federation supported the bid financially, we asked for 40% of tickets for French golfers. They accepted and when we went on pre-sale, those tickets were sold out in one hour and 20 minutes.
We are organising a gala dinner on Wednesday night for 1,200 guests in The Orangerie at the Château de Versailles. Normally, it’s only for the heads of state. For the players, the dinner will be in the centre of the Château and then the players and VIPs will follow the fireworks from la Galerie des Glaces, which is also unique because it’s only been used three times in the history of the Château de Versailles.
The opening ceremony is a big secret at the moment. I can tell you there will be a classic part with the presentation of the teams, and then captains and our Prime Minister will give a speech. The French army will also do a demonstration with the jets, and the French and European colours. After the institutional part, there will be a big concert.
If we do nothing after the Ryder Cup, it would be a big mistake. We are bidding to host the Eisenhower Trophy in 2022. I think it would be perfect timing because we have the Olympics in 2024. Both are organised by the International Golf Federation, so it would be a great way to collaborate.