30/09/2010 14:02
Ryder Cup tees off with a glamorous, musical spectacular
They promised to put on a show to remember, and boy, did the Welsh deliver. As hundreds of dignitaries and thousands of golf fans arrive at Celtic Manor for the 38th Ryder Cup, the event was kicked off with a bang last night with a gala dinner and a 'Welcome to Wales' showbusiness spectacular to rival anything Las Vegas has to offer.
Some of the country’s best-known exports raised the roof at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff, as they performed to a 13,000 strong crowd, which included His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales and Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones, as well as the two Ryder Cup Teams competing for the coveted trophy this weekend.
Opening proceedings, the Prince of Wales spoke a few words in Welsh to welcome visitors, then praised the tournament’s organisers for their efforts to reduce the event’s carbon footprint. Then, it was the turn of Hollywood royalty to take to the stage as Catherine Zeta Jones appeared in a stunning scarlet satin gown, to a standing ovation from her ‘home crowd’.
The Swansea girl, now based between homes in Wales, New York and the Bahamas, was overcome by emotion as she addressed the audience, talking of her pride that the Ryder Cup has come to Wales for the first time.
Prior to the evening’s showcase, she talked candidly about her disappointment that her husband, veteran Hollywood star Michael Douglas, wasn’t able to be in Wales with her, as planned. The Wall Street actor has remained at home in New York to recover from treatment for throat cancer.
"Everyone couldn't be happier with his progress. He's holding up with great strength and dignity," she said, fighting back tears. "He would be representing the American team and I would be wholeheartedly representing the European team, but not this year, maybe next time.”
Zeta Jones, was thrilled at the prospect of to meeting compatriot Katherine Jenkins for the first time – a sentiment echoed by the soprano. Jenkins had previously spoken of her excitement at meeting Zeta Jones saying: "I've never met Catherine before, even though she's from Mumbles and I'm from Neath. Welsh people out of Wales tend to get to know each other, but this will be the first time we've met. She's had an amazing career and we're from the same area, so I'm sure we'll have plenty to talk about."
As the pair embraced backstage, Jenkins, 30, told the Oscar-winning actress: "It's lovely to meet you. You look absolutely stunning. I've always wanted to meet you."
But it was soon on with the show, and Miss Jenkins certainly opened with an awe-inspiring performance. Clad in a corseted, crystal-encrusted black gown, the singer wowed the audience as she unzipped herself on stage after her first number, to reveal a sheer white and silver corset, with a slashed skirt. This was multi-tasking at its best, as the classical singer performed the love song from The Godfather, then proceeded to continue singing beautifully in the arms of an acrobat who cradled her as they were raised high above the auditorium on just a pair of ropes suspended from the roof. It was an showstopping performance, that demanded and received a standing ovation from an appreciative audience.
The organisers had promised a range of Welsh talent, and they were right. It was then the turn of Bridgend band, The Lost Prophets, to add a bit of urban edge to the evening, though lead singer Ian Watkins was clearly chuffed to be singing in the prestigious stadium, and twice referred to his mother in the audience.
Then it was time to introduce the golfers on stage, in a glamorous parade reminiscent of a ballroom dancing spectacular. Resplendent in wool-mohair Canali tuxedos, worn with cotton dress shirts and black silk bow ties, the European Team - and their US counterparts - certainly looked dapper as they were welcomed with their wives and partners, all dressed for the occasion in satins, chiffons and sparkles.
And after, a light-hearted banter between Captains Montgomerie and Pavin, it was back to the musical entertainment, and a chance for some youthful, emerging talent to shine.
From the Ysgol Glanaethwy Choir and Only Boys Aloud to 13 year-old Britain's Got Talent finalist Shaheen Jafargholi, here was evidence that Wales is continuing its heritage of producing singing sensations. It’s not known as the Land of Song for nothing.
Though Tom Jones couldn’t be there in person, he did send a video message, and some of his greatest hits - It's Not Unusual, Green, Green Grass of Home and Delilah - were sung to great applause by crooners Only Men Aloud.
Time for a tempo change next, as heartthrob actor Ioan Gruffudd recited an emotive take on Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood, bringing a tear to the eyes of proud locals.
And finally. What could prove a more fitting finale to this celebration of Welsh culture than the magnificent Dame Shirley Bassey. Dazzling in a gold lame dress with matching cloak, the diva belted out some of favourites including Goldfinger and Hey Big Spender, before being joined on stage by all the evening’s performers for a rendition of the Welsh national anthem, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.
It was, all in all, a stunning start to what is sure to be a thrilling few days, with today’s Opening Ceremony at Celtic Manor the official start of the Ryder Cup. It’s what we’ve all being waiting for, after all…

There really are no words to describe the euphoria that swept the fairways of Celtic Manor this afternoon, as Colin Montgomerie’s embattled men reclaimed the Samuel Ryder Cup as their own. As the sun shone brightly over the picturesque Usk Valley, this lush pocket of south Wales saw a groundswell of European pride emerging from the sodden earth. The air was filled with raw emotion as complete strangers hugged and patted each other on the back. Tears streamed down the cheeks of grown men, who cheered with booming voices, and mothers clung to bewildered children who knew only that they had never before seen anything like this – and may never do so again.
History is being made in this, the 38th Ryder Cup. For some, they’ll be delighted this event is going down in the record books: for others, they might prefer to banish the memories and move on....
For the fans, the key lesson from yesterday’s shenanigans was to think carefully about their attire so they could survive the sporting marathon. The merchandise pavilion in the tented village has virtually sold out of waterproof gear, and supplies of the official Ryder Cup umbrellas were gone before a ball was hit in anger. So, spectators came prepared in all manner of garb, to show their allegiances, while somehow keeping dry and warm.
As European Team Captain Colin Montgomerie’s predecessor, Sir Nick Faldo waved goodbye to the Ryder Cup in the Kentucky sunshine two years ago, and quipped: “See you in Wales – and bring your waterproofs.”
While the US and European Teams battle it out on the fairways at Celtic Manor, one newlywed couple in the crowd is flying the flag for both teams ....
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