The Ryder Cup experience

The Ryder Cup experience

Experiencing the Ryder Cup is like winning the lottery. Quite literally, as this is how I got the opportunity to visit one of the most unique competitions in golf, through winning the ticket lottery.

The uniqueness of the Ryder Cup is definitely one of the key discussions this year as well, with "hatgate" fueling the American team. The uniqueness of representing your country without getting paid - solely for the passion of the sport has been at the heart of this competition for almost 100 years now. 

Until now, the passion for golf has been enough motivation to play in the Ryder Cup but at the same time, the Ryder Cup has become huge business and companies & organizations are making millions of the free talent that the players provide. The Ryder Cup shop had long lines every day, the TV rights are sold and re-sold when the players are there for free, with the exemption of the possibility of donating $200.000 to a charity of their choice.

But my first Ryder Cup experience will focus on passion for the sport. The passion that is shared by players and fans in a way that I have not seen elsewhere. The opportunity to get really close to the players on Tuesday and Thursday motivated me to go home and practice my chipping game, because the delicate hands these superstars posess is something else. 

The core memories however, came from the opening day of competition. When the spark lit up the eyes of every single player and their reactions of making a key putt or chip to win a hole. The team spirit outshining the individual success by a Ludvig Åberg drive (a mile). Team Europe starting with a historic sweep, one key decision as we were sprinting around the course to see as much golf as possible, was to stop at hole 15 since two matches never even made it to the fantastic hole 16 that morning.

It all started at 04.00 in the morning, getting up early to make sure we were on the first metro ride to Ponte Mammolo, the station where the free shuttles left for Marco Simone. Years of moving through crowds at airports in my pre-pandemic years allowed us to move through the massive walking crowds making their way up to ticket control and security. The sun had no interest in rising as early as the rest of us and once we came through, the long wait began. The course did not open until 06.30, or as the announcer was frequently booed for, depending on daylight. Time passed slower than the wait during a Cantlay setup, but eventually they pulled the ropes and thousands of fans wanted to make the first tee grand stands. Nearly pulling a hamstring, we made it and like the other fans around us, there was a relief to know that this is where it all begins. The warmth from the intense sunrise over this majestic setting that was chosen to host the 2023 Ryder Cup, filled our lungs and gave us the energy to start the chants creating some first tee nerves for veterans and rookies.

As the day unravelled, the early lead would potentially shrink significantly as the Americans had the momentum in the first three fourball matches. Then we witnessed what can only be described as a Ryder Cup phenomenon - with Hovland making an incredible putt to tie the first match followed by Rahm making an even better eagle. I was unable to speak as we sank down in our seats in the shuttle, wondering what the heck we had witnessed. 

The differences between the Ryder Cup and a round of Sunday golf are enormous yet both experiences are part of what golf has to offer. It's incredible and I have yet to find another sport with such a broad offer of varieties. You've got to love that. 

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