France is the center of women’s golf this week as it hosts the Evian Championship, and even more eyeballs will turn to the nation in two weeks when the Ryder Cup comes calling for the first time ever. But according to Franck Riboud, president of the Evian tournament, the increased interest won’t change how the country views the sport.
Riboud spoke to reporters in advance of this week’s event in Evian-les-Bains, and he had some candid comments regarding what hosting the Ryder Cup will – and won’t – do to increase interest among the French.
“I’m going to be very nasty with my country. My country is not a golf country,” Riboud said. “Even if we have the Ryder Cup, it’s not a golf country. We don’t have the culture. I don’t care.”
The raw numbers at the professional level tend to back up Riboud’s claims. The most recognizable moment in French golf remains Jean Van de Velde’s near-miss at the 1999 Open, and Alexander Levy is currently the highest-ranking Frenchman in the world. He’s ranked No. 88, with only two other countrymen inside the top 200. Karine Icher (No. 121) is the only French woman inside the top 250 of the Rolex Rankings.
While the Ryder Cup is always one of the most anticipated events on the golf calendar, interest this year could reach all-time highs thanks in part to the fact that Tiger Woods will return as a player for the first time since 2012. But Riboud believes that for French golf to take a step forward, homegrown talent will need homegrown players as role models – not just the greatest player of a generation.
“The best ambassador of golf in France is going to be the next French champion at the same level of Tiger Woods. Perhaps it’s crazy, but that’s the thing we have to dream about,” Riboud said. “We need the kids to dream about a French player or French ladies.”