The head of France’s only golf major says hosting the Ryder Cup won’t help his country produce a star player. Asked at an eve-of-tournament news conference Wednesday about a stellar month for French golf, the women’s Evian Championship chairman Franck Riboud dismissed what the Ryder Cup could achieve when it’s played September 28-30 near Paris. The 12-man Europe team at Le Golf National has no players from France, and the top-ranked Frenchman is No. 97 Mike Lorenzo-Vera.
“We need a (French) champion, that’s all,” Riboud said. “I think we need a project for the young French player to show we are a champion in the next five years. … We don’t have a golf culture, we have to build it.” Riboud is the long-time former chairman and chief executive of food giant Danone, which owns the Evian water brand. Danone is not a sponsor of the Ryder Cup but invests in golf tournaments for women and young players, including the Arnold Palmer Cup.
“Perhaps you are surprised,” Riboud said. “Because personally I think the Ryder Cup is not building or helping to reach the objective” of developing talent. Though Tiger Woods is making a rare visit to France, Riboud played down the impact his selection for the United States team could have.
“No, the best ambassador for golf in France is going to the next French champion at the same level (as) Tiger Woods,” the businessman said. “Perhaps it’s crazy but that’s the thing we have to dream about.”
“It’s a champion who is pushing the young people,” Riboud added, comparing the influence French champions had on participation in other sports. He singled out Alpine skiing great Jean-Claude Killy in the 1960s and tennis player Yannick Noah in the 1980s. Now retired from leading Danone, Riboud hinted he had ideas and time for the French golf federation.
“I have a plan, I proposed a plan _ I’m still waiting (for) the answer,” the 62-year-old “It’s not my job. It could become my job. We are very happy in Evian, which is golf country.”