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The 2023 Ryder Cup: A Springboard for Italian Growth and Development6 min read

Tom BentleyAuthor: Tom Bentley

Posted on: 9th Oct 2021

2018 was a monumental moment for golf in France. By bringing the biennial Ryder Cup matches to Paris meant that the French economy benefitted with sums in the region of €235 million, achieved through ticket sales, international consumer spending, business investment and other commercial activity. Through that Ryder Cup, the contributions have unquestionably raised the profile of golf in France enormously and brought about significant economic value to wider French society.

But the impact it has had goes further than just the economics. The French bid for the matches contained legacy-focused activities such as building 100 ‘petites structures’ (or urban courses) closer to the population and the ‘Mon Carnet de Golf’ schools programme that introduced golf and the Ryder Cup to French schoolchildren. After 10 years of work, that short course project has had a significant impact on French golf by developing 17,000 new players, creating over 250 jobs and generating economic benefits such as increased investment into golf and contribution to the national GDP through an average of €220,000 of revenue and 3000 green fees per course.

So, there is no wonder that excitement about the opportunities and the possibilities that the Ryder Cup can have is growing each day within Italy – the host country of the 2023 matches. For the first time, the event will be staged by the country best known for the Molinari brothers, exquisite food and gastronomy, and the roar of a Ferrari supercar.

That excitement is shared by Head of Education for the Italian Golf Federation and President of the PGA of Italy, Filippo Barbé: “The Ryder Cup is a great opportunity. We will need to think outside the box and do something different for 2023 but I am excited.”

Joining the conversation from his home in the North-Italian hub of Milan, Filippo is gently spoken throughout. He is one of the most influential figures in Italian golf and will no doubt be playing his own part in making the matches a huge success for golfers across the country. Whilst he is not directly involved in the matches themselves, he is aware of the opportunities it will bring to the two governing organisations and the domestic game: “With a Ryder Cup coming up in 2023, the Federation and the PGA of Italy will be stepping up our cooperation. It makes total sense to do so. It is not often a Ryder Cup comes about. By doing so, we can have a significant influence on the game on so many levels going into that event. Historically, our cooperation has ensured that participation levels have remained high and in fact, higher than many other countries, so I do not think there is a reason to change course because of the Ryder Cup.”

Whilst participation may be high, golf in Italy can only thrive with solid foundations and that comes from a self-sustainable and financially strong PGA. Filippo was keen to stress this fact throughout the conversation: “We cooperate closely to ensure we run on strong foundations. Becoming more sustainable as a PGA is our goal. With the focus now switching to Italy for 2023, commercial sponsors will be looking for new opportunities to target golfers and activate across the country. I believe we have a part to play on this front. The challenge for the PGAI and the Federation now is to ensure that we reaffirm our position as the two leading organisations for golf in the country. That is key. By maintaining our influence and presence, I feel this will help revenue and sponsorship to flow long after the event has been staged. This money helps to move our organisations forward and provide better services to our members.”

There is no doubt that the 2018 Ryder Cup, the French Open and many other major golf events have helped to place France in an attractive position for commercial investors over the years. Investment and profits from the event itself – which is channelled through and administered by the Ryder Cup European Development Trust (RCEDT) – has helped support projects such as the 100 Petites Structures and other developmental initiatives that are growing the game in France. It is that sort of legacy that the PGA of Italy is aiming to replicate heading into the 2023 edition: “I am convinced it will be a great event but we must focus on what we are good at and what our strengths are. Our unique position for golf in Italy will help to attract sponsors, tourists, golfers and businesses – all of which are key to supporting golf’s development in the country”.

Keen to stress that actions speak louder than words however, Filippo cited recent examples of how and why the PGA of Italy is keen to be involved in international golf events as much as possible: “During the recent Italian Open, we had a dedicated area to host a series of coaching clinics and zones. We invited some of our most experienced PGAI Professionals to be stationed throughout the week and deliver lessons to the general public. This is a very small and simple example but it was very effective. Our highly educated PGA Members are the experts in the game. We think having them present at the Ryder Cup and during events like the Italian Open is valuable. They are able to engage with golfers and help them to improve and a lot of these amateurs are ones who we would not normally see at golf clubs and driving ranges on a day-to-day basis. They have come to watch golf for the first time.”

“That is the power of golf events such as the Italian Open and the Ryder Cup. They enable us to reach new audiences. We can do a great job in 2023. There are some tremendous opportunities for the PGA of Italy and the Italian Golf Federation to take advantage of. We just want to showcase our PGA Professionals and help drive the numbers of people playing golf here in Italy. The Ryder Cup is perfect for this.”

The Power of Sponsorships in Golf

To hear Filippo speak so passionately about golf in Italy and the PGA for which he has presided as President for over three years was quite eye-opening. He is a man who cares deeply about the sport in his country, with a strong and vested interest in providing greater and further opportunity for his members: “Having better educated Professionals, supported by a strong PGA both financially and operationally, ensures they are able to engage with golfers in new and better ways, and ultimately grow the game across all levels.”

It is clear that large-scale golf events play an integral part in driving domestic participation and in supporting national golf organisations. The Ryder Cup has a history for providing increased opportunity and exposure for countries to benefit and in turn, for golf to thrive in the respective host countries. By staging the matches in Rome in 2023, it will be immense for Italian golf – not just because of the anticipated three day spectacle that we have all grown to love but also because of the effect it will have on the wider game in Italy and on the institutions that are responsible for its development. For the many passionate individuals that administer the Italian game, such as Filippo Barbé, the Ryder Cup’s impact will be profound.