The Ryder Cup experience has to be the pinnacle of the golfing career of both USA & European players, the recreational golfer plus this very happy former Tour player and now full time Coach.
I was absolutely delighted to have received an official invitation to the long awaited 2020 Ryder Cup at the spectacular Whistling Straits Golf course overlooking the magnificent Lake Michigan. The invitation was a total surprise but with the necessary volume of paperwork and testing prior to the event I was not letting myself become too excited at the prospect of attending my first ever Ryder Cup in the States with the additional honour as part of the official European Tour Ryder Cup party. This role entailed assisting with the matches as “rules observer” which has to be the greatest privilege and responsible positions I have undertaken within my playing arena.
The specially chartered flight for the players and the travelling party was an honour in itself with the menus even displaying the Ryder Cup logos. It was then everything started to sink in so I used the 8 hr flight to start to plan my week ahead which included a variety of meetings and course mapping sessions in preparation for Sunday’s singles matches as the European representative ” official observer”
The week was a real opportunity for me to meet and spend time with our PGA board members who will be supporting me during my year as PGA Captain commencing early April 2022. It was a huge pleasure to learn from Peter Hanna and Bernard Gallacher OBE two absolutely outstanding PGA Captains, I will certainly do my best to emulate their leadership. We are blessed as an organisation to have access to a wonderful group of Professionals and committed colleagues, it is this closely knit working bond which will our guarantee success going forwards. It was a huge pleasure to learn from Peter Hanna and Bernard Gallacher OBE two outstanding PGA Captains
An early start on the Tuesday so no time for jet lag after our Monday arrival, this was the ideal opportunity to shop till you drop in the well organised merchandise centre which was absolutely huge. This was not the only visit naturally, a girl loves to shop! I am just waiting anxiously for the credit card bill… but I would do it all over again.
The grand stands were relatively empty at 7am when we arrived lovely to take in the scenery and calming atmosphere, but by 10am it was just like the first day of a Major Tournament. Our schedule guaranteed John and I had walked the first 9 holes starting to pay attention to the routes and walkways which would be jammed with in excess of 40,000 USA fans with a mere 200- 250 European come Friday morning. The undulating terrain required extra caution as one slip could mean a nasty injury sadly as some spectators experienced.
The Calm of the Ryder Cup on the first tee
The phone battery was leaking fast at the multitude of photos taken of the most incredible scenery and player’s, too many to post you will be delighted to hear.
The annual match against the PGA of America was once again played on the Wednesday with the pristine greens running at 12 on the undulating, ironed greens! I am delighted to report Europe were victorious with my playing partner Mr Keith Pelley Chief Executive Officer from the European Tour winning 3 1/2 points from the 4 available to retain the trophy.
Having spent numerous years travelling Stateside I knew the 4am alarm call would not be required which was a good job as the early buses were definitely required due to the shear volume of traffic descending on to the beauty of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin. The first morning there was an 8 mile queue which was swiftly reduced with one of the USA player’s family running swiftly to seek a police escort against the on coming traffic. This worked a treat and guaranteed our bus transporting the player’s families arrived 10 minutes prior t the first tee shot so they could be there at their sons debut, a happy ending.
I was reunited with so many people during the week but also meeting new associates in the world of golf which is a very small closely knit community. It was a real pleasure to communicate again with Suzy Whaley who has held the prestigious post of President of the PGA of America for the past two years.
We all know the result but the standard of golf played by the USA team was faultless, shot shaping to access the tight pin placements with tip top precision with their “safe” landing areas to feed to the hole. The wind direction changed during the week which called for perfect ball striking to find the narrow superbly manicured fairways with shear drops towards the “Great Lake”. It does seem weird calling it a lake when is 307 miles long and 118 miles wide..roughly the same size as Ireland simply staggering.
The new experiences golf provides is never ending the first time I had been afforded the colour coded lanyard to access the fairway but with an official role as the Head Referee phrased it “One of the most important roles of the week” I was understandably nervous but my wonderful referee David Price certainly put me at ease. I felt like I was running the 4 minute mile. I was given match 3 in the singles John Rahm vs Scottie Scheffler it’s not everyday your view is first class watching two outstanding golfers and people.
I had to be ahead of play to determine and radio back to our match Referee any rules infringements, lost balls, controlling crowds whilst protecting any stray golf balls from crowd movement. I was conscious of trying to be discrete keeping away from the main cameras and player lines. The sheer disbelief at the volume of spectators on each hole was mind blowing this will never be replaced as was the volume of the chants from the home supporters.
It really was a role and a Ryder Cup which I will cherish forever and will certainly jump at the opportunity should it ever arise in the near future. The week was filled with unbelievable memories and friendships which I shall carry forward to my forthcoming role as PGA Captain commencing in 2022 I will certainly ensure I take less baggage next time team!