French taking notes at Ryder Cup as 2018 host

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GLENEAGLES, Scotland (AP) From the ''Home of Golf'' in 2014 to the ''Paradis du Golf'' in 2018.

The next European stop for the ever-expanding Ryder Cup will be Le Golf National just outside Paris. It will be only the second time the event has been held in continental Europe.

''The Legend Arrives in France'' is a motto of its organizers, who have travelled en masse to Gleneagles, Scotland, this week to get a feel of just what it takes to stage the biggest team competition in golf. Even Le Golf National head greenkeeper Alejandro Reyes has come over to help out.

For French golf's highest official, it's been a bewildering experience - and play hasn't even started.

As Jean-Lou Charon, president of the French Golf Federation, looked out from his executive suite overlooking the 18th fairway on Gleneagles' PGA Centenary course, he was staggered by the crowds.

''It was a charity day today, training yesterday. To see before the start of official competition so many people around the course, it is very impressive for us,'' Charon said.

''Here, we think in the gene of people you have blood, and inside the blood you have golf. We are dreaming that one day, many centuries ahead, people in France have a little bit of the golf gene in their blood.''

The percentage of the population that plays golf in France (0.61) is lower than the European average (0.82) and much lower than the United States (9.5), according to statistics provided by the French federation. Perhaps that's because the perception in France is that golf is an elitist sport. That's something Charon and the 2018 Ryder Cup organizers have been looking to eradicate since the country was awarded the event in 2011.

It won't be easy.

''I saw on French television last Monday a report on the Ryder Cup and Victor Dubuisson,'' Charon told The Associated Press in an interview. ''They filmed him on the Cote d'Azur in Cannes with a nice car and all the things which are not important for golf.

''It wasn't, for me, focused on the way he trains, what type of training - technical or mental - ... the angle of his profession of being a golfer wasn't shown.''

Dubuisson, the only Frenchman in the European team this year and the third in the competition's history, is the poster boy of French golf who has come through their golfing system. He is ranked No. 23 and one of Europe's top young players.

No other Frenchman is in the world's top 100.

''In France, it's like when Yannick Noah won the French Open in tennis - we need champions,'' Pascal Grizot, chairman of Ryder Cup France 2018, told the AP.

To make golf more accessible, cheap, and quicker to play, the French federation pledged in 2009 to build 100 short, urban courses by 2018. Charon says 66 have been built or are under construction.

Charon is desperate to have at least one Frenchman in the European team in 2018 - ''two would be a dream,'' he said, smiling - and added that it would be nice to see either of Jean Van de Velde or Thomas Levet, the other Frenchman to have played in the Ryder Cup, as a vice captain.

And there are plans to use tourist landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Palace of Versailles, which is near Le Golf National, as part of the event.

But that is four years away.

In the meantime, Charon looks on in awe at the passion Scots have for golf and hopes that ''Froggies Love Golf Too'' - another motto of France's 2018 bid - turns out one day to be true.