25 September 1997: The Ryder Cup tees off at Valderrama

US golf fans wave American flags during the opening ceremony.
US golf fans wave American flags during the opening ceremony. / SUR
  • The event was attended by international VIPs including former US president George Bush, the Duke of York and the Spanish monarchs

For the first time in its seventy-one-year history, golf's Ryder Cup took place outside the USA or UK and came to Sotogrande's Valderrama golf course (Cadiz) in 1997.

King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía opened the ceremony on 25 September, fulfilling the dream of European captain, Severiano Ballesteros, to compete for the cup in his own country.

A host of international VIPs, including the Duke of York and former US president George Bush, joined thousands of golf enthusiasts for the three-day event.

Along with Ballesteros, other famous players included Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, Darren Clarke, Bernhard Langer and Lee Westwood. The most famous American player was a young Tiger Woods.

The decision to hold the cup at the Sotogrande course was undoubtedly linked to its ranking as Europe's number one golf course by Golf World magazine in 1991, a position it maintained throughout the 1990s.

The Ryder Cup was won by the European team by a small margin of 14.5 to 13.5, after three days of tension and surprises.

A delighted Ballesteros said, "We played from the heart and that is why we won." He also predicted that golf would "take off in a big way" in Spain as a result.

Rain and traffic chaos put a dampener on the event, the latter causing 22-kilometre tailbacks around Estepona, leading to frustrated players, journalists and spectators.

However, despite the setbacks, the first Ryder Cup in continental Europe was declared a success by all those involved.

It achieved all the planned objectives, particularly in terms of sport and tourism, by placing the Costa del Sol firmly on the map as a golfing destination.

While the Ryder Cup hasn't returned to Spain since 1997, the event did set a precedent: it has been played in other parts of Europe, including The K Club in Kildare, Ireland, in 2006 and Le Golf National, Versalles, Paris, in 2018.

In 2022 it is expected to take place at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Italy.