I've always enjoyed watching the Ryder Cup on TV over the years but I now have a completely different (improved) perspective. I was fortunate enough to attend all six days (practice rounds, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday plus Friday, Saturday and Sunday). I watched some of the best golfers in the world warm up and hit balls on the practice range all week. I took different long-time friends Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, my 9-year old son Friday and my 12-year old son Saturday and Sunday.
I got an early start all six days and claimed a spot on the railing either to the left of the range and the grandstand that was behind it or next to the chipping green next to the first tee. This morning the latter spot was advantageous as each twosome was very close before they headed to the first tee and a PGA official came over and gave my 12-year old son one of the balls that had been used for practice. We think Anthony Kim or Sergio Garcia used it but there is no way to know for sure.
He gave that ball to his younger brother, after some parental prodding, because it’s not as cool as the one that Padrig Harrington threw to him Saturday morning during the foursome matches (alternate shot) between 16 green and 17 tee after using it to halve the hole with a clutch putt. One of the best golfers in the world who just won the last two majors tossed my son a ball used to make an important putt. That’s the equivalent of catching the game-winning home run hit by the other visiting team’s league MVP. My son is a golf nut and has ridiculous golf-knowledge for a 12-year old.
Late Saturday we were walking up the left side of the17th fairway and an errant drive hit the trees above us and we found ourselves right next to someone’s ball. You know how everyone crowds around the balls when it lands on the wrong side of the ropes. Someone asked whose ball it was. It could have been any one of four golfers as they were now playing fourball matches. My son looked up at me and said, “That has to be Henrick Stenson’s ball, he’s the only one that plays a Srixon ball.” Sure enough, here comes Henrick! That ball was leaning up against a smashed walnut and he acted like it wasn’t even there and hit a great shot from an uneven lie crowded on all sides by fans that were as close as they could get.
We witnessed three days of flat out unbelievable golf and some of it from very close up. Some of the golf was just unbelievable and seemed to only get better as the stakes were raised! Players from both teams were gracious during the practice rounds to fans, tenacious, supportive of teammates and respectful (mostly, although I did observe some obvious gamesmanship) during play. All of the people (Europeans too) we spoke with and/or stood next to were very nice all week. There were of course the occasional exceptions that seemed to be alcohol induced but almost without fail adults would ask my sons if they could see and invited them to get in front of them so they could see better.
The crowds were great and made the event special. Civil competitiveness expressed in constant boisterous support of your team complimented by respectful acknowledgment of quality play by the opposing team was the norm. The singing by the Europeans was effective and infectious especially on the first tee. The loud support of Kenny Perry and J. B. Holmes, the constant "BOOOOOOO" calls when Boo Weekly was on a hole and the enthusiasm generated by Anthony Kim was outstanding!
There was no way to be see all of the great golf in person of course but we were at 14 green today when Anthony Kim won the first point of the day and my 12-year old son was under the ropes behind (and to the left) #17 green when Jim Furyk hit the decisive putt while I was standing on a PGA golf-cart! We witnessed numerous other pivotal moments up close… too many to mention and this is too long already. I hope others got as much enjoyment out of this event as I did.
My fantasy football teams suffered for a week, my feet and legs are killing me and I hope I can stay awake tomorrow at work but that was a unique experience. I’m glad I did it!