My Life With The Ryder Cup Cult: Part One

On September 28th, I had the opportunity to spend the day at Hazeltine National Golf Club. It was the home of the 2016 Ryder Cup. I'm not going to go into exactly what that is, because I still don't fully know how that works. What I do know is that there are two teams in the tournament: Team USA and Team Europe, and they are playing for possession of the Ryder Cup. It happens every two years. Individuals golf in groups, but it's a team tournament. Scores, pairings, blah blah blah. Now that it's over, and a month later, I know Team USA won. 

I received a ticket and a commemorative hat for free from where I work. I was one of the people chosen based on my contributions to safety. The company I work for also had a hospitality tent at the Ryder Cup, so I was able to take advantage of the free food available and have a nice area to view the second half of the tenth hole. I had heard the tickets were about one hundred dollars, so it was a nice gift to receive. I surely would never pay that kind of money to go to a golf tournament. Maybe when I'm older. I don't know who I'll be then. Maybe one hundred dollars won't be a lot then. I'll have to contact my soothsayer.

The sponsored hospitality tents on the grounds were only for those with the right credentials. They were also on a deck. Imagine building a giant deck and putting a row of sturdy 30X30 tents up on it in a row. So, when golfers played through the tenth hole, we were able to be out of the crowd and actually see over them. It was nice. And considering it was a bit chilly that morning—forty-eight degrees—a heated tent was a nice place to warm up.

The only way into Hazeltine was by shuttle bus and the main way to do that was to park at Canterbury Park, a gambling and gaming business that also has horse races. It has a large parking lot that can handle the numbers. Hazeltine and Canterbury Park are both south of the place I work at, which is in the southern suburbs. A co-worker who was going—and also lives in the northern suburbs—met me at work, and we carpooled from there to Canterbury Park.

The event, as I've learned recently, is a pretty big deal worldwide. Security was taken very seriously, and no one was allowed within a perimeter extending beyond the course without having the correct credentials and entering by proper transportation—shuttle buses. No one was allowed to park nearby and walk or bike in. Anyone caught trespassing would be met by armed security. (A floatplane actually landed on an adjacent lake.) Even the people who owned or rented homes around the course that were within the extended perimeter were not allowed to walk the neighborhood. If they wanted to do anything but stay within their property lines, they had to drive out and have the correct credentials to do so. So many credentials.

The bus ride was advertised as taking thirty minutes, but it actually only took about twenty. It was a nice bus, one you'd ride in if you were traveling across the country. During the ride, a video played that gave passengers an overview of the rules for the Ryder Cup and also some general information as well. There were bad jokes and silly acting, but all in all, it kept the time from dragging too much.

golf, Minnesota, Ryder Cup, Hazeltine

After we showed our tickets and walked through the gate, we decided to walk through the merchandise shop, since it was the closest tent to the entrance/exit, and it seemed good to get it out of the way first. Nothing called to me, but I did consider purchasing a tee-shirt to commemorate the event. I decided I'd rather not spend thirty-five dollars on a tee-shirt. Everything was too expensive but that wasn't a big surprise. The hat I already got, along with the ticket and any other free things I might get that day, would be enough. Besides, it was about the experience and not collecting more things. I have PLENTY of things.

We moved on and started walking the course, beginning at hole one with the goal of making it to hole ten. The course looked nice, and it looked like there was a lot of work that went into the spectator aspect: bleacher style seats at each tee and green, bridges for the golfers and their entourage to cross so they did not have to pass through us riff-raff, giant video screens and scoreboards throughout to ensure the activities on each hole weren't missed, rows and rows of tents for sponsors, and food tents aplenty. All of the bleachers, bridges, and fence lines were covered with a red fabric that hid the metal / industrial nature of the building materials. It really spruced the place up and made it look tres magnifique.

Before we made it to hole ten, we came across a small putting green where one of the European golfers was practicing. It was also by the clubhouse where the pros and their people could eat, drink, and relax. Of course, people had lined the short fence to watch and take pictures. Across from this was a structure for NBC Golf. They were set up to do broadcasts with a panel of people, their backs facing us, making us and the small putting green their backdrop.

gold, Minnesota, Ryder Cup, Hazeltine
There was also a group of about a dozen men from the U.K. that were dressed in the Union Jack. Their pants, shirts, and jackets had this design, and they also wore jester hats (with bells) sporting these colors as well. One gentlemen wore a plastic derby hat that had the Union Jack on it. We saw them throughout the day in various places, singing songs and laughing. A lot of people were getting a picture taken with them. The NBC producer wanted to get them on TV, so she asked them to stay for ten minutes. They obviously did, why wouldn't they? So, we stayed as well and possibly made it onto TV, too.

If you are wondering, no, I didn't just stand there looking normal. Where's the fun in that? I hope I made one person in the world say, "What's up with that guy?" However, don't think I was acting crazy. That didn't happen either. Let's just say my performance was creepy and subtly odd. I wish I could find a video of it on the internet. However, here is a video of me and my son at the Minnesota State Fair this year. I'm pushing him in a stroller behind the reporter at 00:36.

I suppose I should state that the day I attended was one of the practice days. Once again, I've learned all of this recently within the last month. Apparently, there are three practice days with special events thrown in and three days of the actual Ryder Cup tournament. The professional golfers practicing for the Ryder Cup would play in the morning and finish in the early afternoon. The special golf event starts in the early afternoon. I would've liked to have been at Tuesday's special event, which was a celebrity golf tournament. I heard that Bill Murray and Michael Phelps played. I haven't looked into who else was there. You're more than welcome to if you're so inclined.

I was at Hazeltine the next day, Wednesday, the second practice day, and the special event was a junior Ryder Cup tournament also consisting of a Team USA and a Team Europe. We had already planned on leaving by or around one pm, and that was around when the event started. We weren't heart broken we'd miss it. We didn't know who any of the players were anyways. Heck, I recognized only a few of the pro's names.

I suppose I'll get back to our walk to hole ten... We made it there without anything remarkable happening. The green at hole ten has a lake alongside it and makes for a nice view. Standing out on the deck in front of the hospitality tent allowed an even better view as it was next to the green. A large variety of beverages were available along the right side of the tent, and since it was morning, there was an assortment of breakfast foods and coffee along the back wall.

We saw and talked briefly to other co-workers who were there—all of them being above our pay grade. We sat down and had some food and drink as we watched one of the two TVs in the tent. Of course, they were tuned into the Ryder Cup. After sitting fifteen minutes or so, we decided to continue our walk of the course.

We ended up staying out on the deck for another half hour to an hour because we heard that the first group of pro golfers practicing would be coming through hole ten. It took about twenty minutes for them to start showing up by us. Hole ten has a tight dog leg to the left and then the ground descends until just before the green and surrounding sand traps. The descent is pretty steep. Add to that a thick area of trees and foliage in the crook of the dog leg and it was hard to see anything from where we were. We watched them hit their balls to the green, putt, putt some more, slap each other on the butt, and then leave to the next hole when the next group started making it to the dog leg.

We had seen enough and decided to continue on our tour of the course. On our tour, we didn't see anything we hadn't already seen. It really was just more of the same. Even though it's impossible to keep nature out of a natural, outdoor setting, I was surprised at how badly kept a few spots on the course were. One hole I remember clearly had a large wet and muddy area just past the tee box that extended twenty-five to fifty yards. And there were areas I was worried I would get muddy walking through.

Maybe it's my stupidity, but I figured with such a prestigious event and all of the media attention pertaining to the course preparation over the last few years, things like that wouldn't be an issue. And largely, it wasn't. We've received large amounts of rainfall lately, and one or many can only do so much about that. Besides a few areas at most, the course itself was looking about as nice as trimmed grass can.

From what I've learned, the Ryder Cup is seen as the "funnest" event in golf. There were plenty of people dressed up, patriotically though, for both the USA and Europe. It didn't look like we were at a comic-con. In addition, it sounds like the atmosphere is looser and the golfers really enjoy the bi-annual event's rivalry. It's their Olympics of sorts. Still, it's golf and there are strict rules on photography, videography, and just plain ole general shenanigan-graphy. This was evident in the many signs we saw explaining the rules.

I can only take the word on the street about pro golf or the Ryder Cup at face value, because it's the first pro golf event I've been to, and I don't follow professional or amateur sports. It's not my thing. I enjoy going to a sports event once in a while. I've watched them on TV before, but it wouldn't be my first, second, third, or heck, I wouldn't be the one to choose sports to watch on TV. I definitely wouldn't watch golf on TV.

I do play golf. Maybe it would be better said that I do play golf but have only done so twice in the past few years. For a few years before that, I played every week for as long as the weather would allow. I do enjoy it, but you can definitely get wrapped up into it pretty tightly and forget that you're supposed to have fun. Getting better is great, but I doubt I'll be on the pro circuit.

My priorities have changed since then, and I'm more likely to spend my time doing something to benefit myself and my family. Instead of hitting the links, I work on the house and yard. And sometimes that also means doing something in the garage that will benefit myself over the winter when it comes time to work on music. Still, I'd like to get back to playing once in a while.

And so concludes Part One of "My Life With The Ryder Cup Cult." Read Part Two here.

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