Friday, September 28, 2012

Ryder Cup Experience-Day2 & 3

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. 


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Speakeasy Soiree: Get your Tickets Now!

Wilderness Ridge is so excited to be hosting our first ever Speakeasy party on October 25th! Tickets are available for purchase now through Robyn Hansen, our social events coordinator. $15 gets you an authentic classic cocktail of your choice, hors d'oeuvres, and dance lessons all while enjoying live music and demonstrations by our bartenders. Come dressed as your favorite gangster or flapper from the 1920's...the top three best dressed win prizes! Gather your friends and get your tickets early...this will be a party you won't want to miss!
Need some costume inspiration? Here are a few famous faces from the 1920's...


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The wheels were up at 1:09 pm as we took off from Omaha heading to Chicago for the 39th Ryder Cup match between the Americans and Europeans to be held at Medinah Country Club.  I could barely sleep the night before as the anticipation of such a thrilling first time “bucket list” event for me kept my mind racing.

Wednesday was out first official day here which kicked off this morning with the biennial match between the PGA Officers, Board of Directors and Past Presidents vs the Ryder Cup Europe Board.  The bus left the hotel promptly at 7:00 AM and headed to Ruth Lake Country Club.  Ruth Lake is very close to Medinah and was founded in 1922.  The Club was very traditional in setting with a beautiful clubhouse and grounds, tree lined fairways and undulating greens.  The club still maintains traditional values as well with the “no cell phone” policy in effect on the grounds.  That would be a tough one for many at Wilderness Ridge!

I was paired with a Past President of the PGA of America, Will Mann, PGA who is currently the Director for the Coastal Carolina University PGM program.  Our opponents were Ove Sellberg, a former European Tour player from Sweden and Peter Davidson an older gentlemen from Great Britain.  We started off on the extremely manicured course at 8:30 am and shotgun started to the 12th tee.  It has been many years since I have played greens that were as fast as these.  My guess would be they would have run at about 13 on a stimpmeter.   I can say however, fast greens are much easier to putt and I made many putts and had ZERO three putts.  Absolutely perfect greens, fairways, tees, bunkers, etc.  A beautiful golf course to host this event!
Yes, even pros have cart accidents!  As we got to our 2nd hole (hole 13) we drove up the right side of the fairway to find my partners ball when our competitor Peter who was on our right with his cart, decided to make a hard left turn and double back to get his partner.  Well, in the process he was looking in the opposite direction and accidentally T-Boned the side of our cart hard on the passenger side! Fortunately, my partner didn’t have his leg hanging out of the cart or our day would have ended right there as we most certainly would have been heading to the hospital. 

Ove and his partner Peter got off to a quick start. Peter is an amateur and received 11 handicap strokes for the match.  I don’t think he hardly reached a par 4 in regulation but boy could he chip and putt!  We found ourselves down at the turn but we battled back and made a few birdies; some for a half!  Peter and Ove played terrific as partners and we were able to take them to the 18th hole but unfortunately they came out on top.  The final outcome of the day also was in Europe’s favor but in our defense, they had more than a handful of former European tour players such as Jean Van de Velde.  One player even won a senior event just last week!  I played well on the tough course managing a 78 from the tips.  I never hit so many hybrids and fairway woods into greens…..wore me out!  Our opponents just played better today which happens sometimes!   PGA Professionals are hard working men and women that don’t play near enough but really love play when we do have the opportunity to “peg it up”.   Oh, well……we had a GREAT time anyway!  I can tell you this; it really got me fired up for our Wilderness Cup Matches coming up in October.  Brandon, watch out cuz you’re goin down!!

Tonight we head off to dinner at the Donald Stephens Convention Center for a Pre-Ryder Cup Gala.  Following dinner we will head to the Akoo Theater for a concert with Justin Timberlake.   Back to hotel about 11:00 pm and up early for practice rounds followed by a later meeting for PGA Board members assisting throughout the week.

Just in case you want to tune in, I will be on 93.7 FM “The Ticket” at 1:00 pm on Friday for a live update from Medianah.  

I sure hope the American team can pull out a victory this week but as we said at lunch today with the European Board of Directors, the real winner this week is Golf.  No greater venue to bring communities and countries together to play a great game that we all love.  The Ryder Cup is all about Country and Pride and we have a lot of that win or lose.

As we always say at Wilderness Ridge, :Golf is FUN, Play More Golf!

That’s it for now, more tomorrow! 

Chris Thomson, PGA

Friday, September 14, 2012

Real Wedding: Micah & Clara

Micah and Clara were married this past Saturday, September 8th and held their reception in our Yellowstone Ballroom. Both the bride and groom have family from the East and West coast, so Wilderness Ridge was the perfect half-way point for both families. The room  took on a very garden party feel, from the gorgeous floral arrangements by Hillis & Company on all of the tables (especially the head table) to the greenery used throughout the room. So many things we loved about this wedding-scroll through to check out all the gorgeous pictures our Wedding Event Coordinator, Robyn, took.



Misty from Sweet Art created the wedding cake. Simple, yet so pretty!

Non-traditional head tables are becoming quite popular- and we LOVE how this couple chose to set theirs up in front of the fireplace. They chose a longer rectangle table and used lamps, short and tall votives, and lots of flowers and greenery to fill the table giving it a very cozy, comfortable feel. We like that this gives you the feeling of being at a dinner party, rather than so on display.


At the end of the night, the couple treated their guests to a fireworks show put on by Aerial FX. What a fun and beautiful way to end the evening!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Real Wedding: Miles & Kim

We wanted to share with you some of the pictures from Miles and Kim's wedding last Friday night. Pine cones, votives and little coffee scented soaps were placed on each table which worked perfectly with the rustic backdrop of the Yellowstone ballroom. Our favorite part--their gorgeous cake! Scroll through to check it out!