Driving fans into bars

Related tags Ryder cup The open championship Golf

Golfers are known for liking beer and the fact there's two million regular players in the country presents a perfect opportunity for pubs to profit,...

Golfers are known for liking beer and the fact there's two million regular players in the country presents a perfect opportunity for pubs to profit, according to Simon Creasey

Hertfordshire seed merchant Samuel Ryder could hardly have foreseen what would unfold when in 1926 he shelled out for a trophy to be fought over by the finest golfers that America and Britain had to offer. Since the first official Ryder Cup match, held in Massachusetts the following year, a bitter rivalry has ensued, with both sides fighting tooth and nail for bragging rights at the bi-annual tournament.

European fans have been the ones with the most to crow about in recent times, with Ian Woosnam's side sealing Europe's first hat trick of victories in 2006. The win was equally as comprehensive as the one achieved two years earlier, and the Americans will be hoping that home advantage will bring the trophy back to their shores in September, when the drama is played out at the Valhalla course in Louisville.

While doubts remain about the strength in depth of the American side, few would question the credentials of new captain Paul

Azinger, who was a dogged competitor in

his time and is sure to put up a real fight for the trophy.

European unease

His efforts may be aided by an unlikely adversary in the form of European captain Nick Faldo. Never a man to mince his words, Faldo has already caused unease, upsetting former captains Bernard Gallacher and Sam Torrance over comments he made relating to the commitment of one of Europe's top Ryder Cup performers, Colin Montgomerie. The outcome of the competition will depend on the form of experienced players such as Monty and Sergio Garcia for the Europeans, with the US heavily reliant on more senior pros such as Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.

Although the Majors were evenly shared last year between four different players, Woods still managed to add the US PGA to his tally of 13 Major tournament wins and is sure to be in contention in each event again this year, alongside fellow Americans such as Mickelson. (Despite Ryder Cup failures, American golfers have won 22 Majors since the turn of the millennium with five of the last seven US Masters tournaments, played in April at Augusta National, won by Mickelson and Woods). Some pundits are even suggesting that this could be the year that Woods will finally land the grand slam of all four Major trophies - the bookies are currently offering odds of 22-1 on this.

Hopes are also high that a British player will end the current barren run and land a Major in 2008. The last time a home-grown player won one of the big four was in 1999 when Scotland's Paul Lawrie clinched the British Open. Many pundits expect 27-year-old Justin Rose to put on the strongest showing.

Rose's form is certainly hot at the moment and few would be surprised if he were triumphant when the Open returns to Royal Birkdale in July. He claimed the European Order of Merit title in 2007 and in doing so climbed from number 51 in the world to number six - just two years ago he was languishing outside the top 100. He has become one of golf's most consistent performers and is expected to be one of the lynchpins for the European side in the Ryder Cup. He will also be a hard man to beat in the European Order of Merit having landed the 2007 title despite playing in the minimum number of European Tour sanctioned events.

Irishman Padraig Harrington, who came third in the Order of Merit behind South African Ernie Els, is sure to run Rose close, with great things expected of him following his narrow victory in the British Open last year.

Meanwhile Els is expected to feature strongly in the World Match Play Championship in October, which will be played at the Wentworth Club, in Surrey. He landed it for a record seventh time last year on the course that he helped to redesign and few would be surprised if he triumphed again.

Fuller's London Pride: putting punters first

Golf is one of the biggest participation sports in the UK with nearly two million regular golfers in the country. And with big events such as the Ryder Cup happening this year, there are some great opportunities to be had.

London Pride has been the official beer of the English Golf Union for nearly a year now and Fuller's believes there is a strong affinity between golf players and fans, and its beer.

If a pub is near a golf club, or on a main route to one, the licensee should think about the opportunities for passing trade provided by early-morning players, especially on weekends. An 18-hole round can take up to four hours (so an 8am game could finish around lunchtime) and involve a walk of around 6km to 7km, so they will have worked up quite a thirst, not to mention a hunger.

Special lunch deals or early breakfasts could prove popular with this crowd and may entice them to return at other times, maybe with the family in tow.

For armchair golf fans, 2008 will offer the ultimate - the Ryder Cup. With the 2008 tournament taking place in Kentucky in September, a useful six hours behind the UK, pubs will have the chance to attract some extra customers to watch the action after working hours. Perhaps not traditionally a sport to watch in the pub, why not tie it in with in-pub competitions? And why not even create your own putting green?

getting it right: Cheryl Oakes, Kettering Golf Club

A round of golf normally produces a rollercoaster of emotions - even in the most rational human beings.

From holes-in-one to missed two-foot putts, emotions can range from elation to despair. It's understandable that most golfers need a good drink at the end of it all, and that's why the 19th hole has become such an important attraction at any good golf course. The best 19th holes come complete with a bar steward who will congratulate golfers after a good round and commiserate after a bad one.

And at the moment Cheryl Oakes, steward at Kettering Golf Club and winner of the 2007 London Pride English Golf Union Steward of the Year, tops the lot. The competition aims to find the golf steward at the 19th hole who provides the most welcoming and enjoyable experience for golfers and, after winning the Midland regional heat, Oakes went on to walk away with the national prize.

Oakes says that a key part of her job is being polite and friendly, even to those members that tend to take their golfing shortcomings out on the bar staff. "It's very easy to make a positive impression and when someone's had a terrible round it doesn't take much to put a smile back on their face."

The bar offers a wide range of food to golfers coming in from a round and those who are about to head out on the course can get breakfast butties or takeaway sandwiches - they also run occasional offers on soft drinks when major events such as the club's annual pro-am take place.

The clubhouse is equipped with a widescreen TV that shows all of the major golfing events, and on a typical weekend anywhere between 200 and 250 people will pass through depending on the weather.

While Oakes confesses to an interest in the sport, her own golfing aspirations are rather modest. "I've played twice and it didn't go very well," she explains. "I think that's the end of my golfing career - I'd rather be in the clubhouse anyway."

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