Some say that Chicago is the “Windy City”. I can say during our stay here it is definitely more “Electric” thank windy. I’ll explain that a little later.
Thursday was the final day of the practice rounds for all the players as they prepared for the start of the 39th Ryder Cup on Friday. But let me back up a tick and fill you in as to what’s happened up to this point:
Jane and I attended the Ryder Cup Gala at the Donald Stephens Convention Center. There were over 1,000 people in attendance ranging from PGA Professionals, Officials, PGA European Board, PGA & European Tour Board, spouses, and distinguished guests. Absolutely amazing that they could serve all these people meals in a timely manner and have it hot and taste good! Not only was it good, it was great! During dinner I sat next to now a new friend David Hart who is a European PGA golf professional in England just outside of London. We had a great time talking about golf, the Ryder Cup, family, etc. I look forward to staying in touch with him. Following the dinner we were bussed down the street to the Akoo Theater where we attended a special program featuring Justin Timberlake who acted as the MC and special host for the Ryder Cup Matches. There was entertainment from George Lopez and a special concert from the legendary band “Chicago”. Absolutely awesome performance as they played many of their classics hits. After a long day we turned in only to have a full schedule all over again on Thursday.
We got to the course around 10am this day only because it was so casual and no need to be there early. We followed Tiger, Dustin Johnson, Steve Stricker and others and they practiced on the course. Because it was the day for the Opening Ceremonies, players only played 9 holes or less.
At 2:00 PM I attended a meeting for officials and observers so they knew where to be on each hole as play is going. An observer (which is what I am) will assist in spotting balls as the competitors play the match. We are there to assist the rules official (referee) in any way if the ball comes to rest either in a hazard or location that is “outside the ropes”. Should prove interesting as Medinah is a very difficult course with the opportunity to hit it out of play often. Just a point of interest, the course rating from the tees the pro’s play in over 78.1.
OK, here’s where it starts to get “electric”. Jane and I basically had front row seats to the Opening ceremonies! We were the third row back with the PGA Board of Directors. Directly in front of us was Lee Travino, Paul Azinger, Ben Crenshaw, Dave Stockton and others. I couldn’t believe that we were actually that close to the stage! The opening ceremony was awesome as the local US Airforce band got things going and then Jim Nantz from NBC directed the rest of the program. It really is something special to be a part of and I am honored to represent Wilderness Ridge and all of our members as well as all of our Nebraska PGA professionals.
Each captain had some time to introduce the players to the fans and say a few words about the competition, what it meant to them and what it means to the game of golf. Jose Maria Olazabal’s speech was very moving as he spoke about the late Seve Ballesteros and what the Ryder Cup meant to Seve. I think most probably wiped a tear at that point, I know I did.
Davis Love III speech was equally as moving as he talked about how this game brings us all together and we should always remember that it’s a game and not a “war” that they are waging no matter the outcome. A good life lesson for all of us!
At the end there was supposed to be a flyover from some F-16 fighter pilots but at the last minute a large plane making its way into the Chicago O’Hare airport spoiled the fun! Rats!
Following the ceremonies we all had a chance to head on stage and take some photos with the actual Ryder Cup. The cup is only about 16” tall but it is one coveted trophy! I will try to have WR upload some of the photos for everyone to see.
Once again, private dinner following and then off to bed!
Now the electricity is really cranking!! My son Hayden and I caught the 5:30 am shuttle this morning and headed to Medinah to watch the first wave of matches beginning at 7:20 am. As we got to the grandstand by the first tee one of the grandstands was already full directly behind the tee…..mostly with Euro’s. That was ok because we ended up with a perfect spot adjacent to the tee where we could watch it all and still see ball flight down the first fairway. I can’t describe how electric the crowd was as they got things going. It was so amazing I actually voice taped 7 continuous minutes of singing from the Euro’s and chanting from the Americans. All in good fun I might add. The fans on both sides are TERRIFIC and all laugh and have a great time. It’s really like being at a really big high school pep rally. As players made their way to the tee the Euro’s would sing and it became quite funny. I actually saw my new friend David in the adjacent stand not too far away and we exchanged greetings and had some fun. This is why golf is so great…..where else can you meet someone from across the world and have a common bond like golf gives us? Nothing I can think of!
You could definitely feel the nervous energy from the players at the first tee. What an enormous honor to play for your country. You could really see them try to get focused and rely on the trust of their swings as they sent their first tee shots down the fairway. Most everyone hit good shots with the exception of Tiger and Graham McDowell and they ended up ok as well.
Anyway, Hayden and I watched all of the morning matches and were joined by Jane and our other son Carter midway through the early matches. The PM matches started almost immediately following the finish of all play and we were back on the course again. Despite the HUGE, HUGE crowds everyone was cordial and was having a great time. We also had a small XM radio that we shared in each ear that gave us immediate live coverage of all the matches going on. Very cool! I have never experienced the sounds of LOUD song and chanting like you hear at this event. It is unbelievable and is a must do event for your “bucket list”.
Matches will begin again tomorrow at 7:20 am and Hayden and I plan to be there again for the first tee shots. I hope you have the opportunity to tune in sometime tomorrow (Saturday) and cheer on our players as we currently hold a slim 5-3 lead.
It’s been great to be able to share in this experience with my family as they have all enjoyed the festivities and golf.