Director of Golf Courses Jim McKenzie is satisfied Celtic Manor will prove a worthy Ryder Cup venue

Press Releasein Golf

A conspiratorial grin spreads across Jim McKenzie's face as he looks at the derelict farm building that is the improbable neighbour of Celtic Manor's plush new clubhouse.

He wants it removed, but a long-running dispute with the local planning authority means the rotting eyesore will still be there when the Ryder Cup gets underway this week. "We were thinking," McKenzie suggests, "that we could make it the American team room."

The 48-year-old Scot will crack a few more jokes over the next hour or so. If the pressure of staging a tourn-ament billed as the third-biggest event in world sport is getting to him then it certainly doesn't show. A very large buck will stop on McKenzie's desk if the Celtic Manor's Twenty Ten course isn't up to the job of hosting it - closely followed, it must be assumed, by a suggestion from billionaire owner Sir Terry Matthews that he seeks employment elsewhere.

McKenzie has come a long way already in the 30-or-so years that have passed since he first signed on as an apprentice green-keeper at Haggs Castle, on Glasgow's south side. From there he moved to Cawder, to the north of the city, then back across the Clyde to Renfrew. His big leap was to Wentworth, where he took charge of the famous West Course, and from where he was head-hunted by Sir Terry to start the process of turning Celtic Manor into what it is today.

Eighteen years and five golf courses later, is McKenzie, now Director of Golf Courses, ready for the global spotlight turning towards the acres of Welsh hillside and pastureland he has nurtured for almost two decades? He has chivvied the place into shape for the Wales Open often enough, but a second-tier European Tour event is in a different league to golf's greatest team event. Lately, he has been working 12-hour days, seven days a week. But does sleep come easily when he rests his head on the pillow?

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