From the Sidelines
By Mike Stegall
This past weekend saw a lot of sports on television. I think I watched just about everything except soccer and baseball. It was all there for me; NASCAR, IMSA racing, high school football, pro football, college football, and of course golf. This was no ordinary weekend for golf, this was the week of the Ryder Cup. This event was started back in 1927 by Samuel Ryder, an English golf enthusiast and entrepreneur who invented the idea of selling “penny packets” of seeds for gardens. For those of you not interested in golf that much, I would suggest at least trying to watch this event. It is one of the most exciting and heartbreaking events you will watch! Ask any golfer, and they will tell you that watching the Ryder Cup brings out every human emotion.
I have to admit, the last 8 years or so, I had lost interest in the Ryder Cup. The European team seemed to just whip us every time, and it usually wasn’t close, which makes it exciting. I thought this year would be no different. As a matter of fact I told my golfing friends that I thought the American team was going to get beat worse than the American ladies did in the Solheim Cup, the women’s Ryder Cup. The Solheim Cup is a biennial golf tournament (like the Ryder Cup) for professional women golfers contested by teams representing Europe and the United States. It is named after the Norwegian-American golf club manufacturer Karsten Solheim (inventor of PING Golf Clubs), who was a driving force behind its creation. This year the American women got beat 15-13, and I thought the men would get beat a lot worse. The reason for me was quite simple; I did not think this group of players the last 10 years or so really cared about it. As a matter of fact, several sports reporters have said in the past the American team was “twelve guys, on twelve planes, eating twelve different meals,” meaning they didn’t play as a team, and really didn’t care to know each other. It looked like sometimes they didn’t even like each other. I also thought the Americans really didn’t care for the event that much, that it was just something they got to do for a week to get away from the tour. For me it always seemed like the European team just lived for the Ryder Cup, worked harder for it, and enjoyed each other’s company a lot more than the Americans did, and that translated into more fun for them while playing, and better golf.
I admit I had forgotten one thing: This was a new breed of American golfers. This group had mostly grown up together, had known and played against each other since childhood, and actually — believe it or not — LIKED EACH OTHER! This was a really young team, and watching them you could tell this was going to be different; there was a fire there that had not been seen in a long time. This time too, 10 of the top 15 golfers in the world were playing for the Americans, and the oldest was Dustin Johnson at age 37. This team is young, and played like they wanted to completely destroy the European team… and they did by a record setting score of 19-9! It was refreshing to see an American team actually care about this event.
As I watched, I was stunned at how the Americans approached each day, you could tell they really wanted this! They dominated from the beginning, and it was never in doubt, although I did tell my golf buddies on Sunday, Randy Breaden and Dale Ary, that it wasn’t over yet, even though the Americans led at that point 11-6. I was wrong, it was over from the first shot, as the Americans never let the European team breathe… it was a complete beat-down! Afterwards, in the interviews, Rory McIlroy of the European team and one of the best golfers in the world, was asked what he thought the difference was in this American team. Rory stated that he thought that this team was very talented and most importantly, “they actually bought into the Ryder Cup experience.” I agree. This team looked like this was the most important thing to them in golf. Several members were asked which would they rather do, win a major championship or a Ryder Cup and they said “The Ryder Cup!”
So, I am proud to admit that I was so wrong about this team, they are going to be good for the next 10 years or so, I think. In two years, the Ryder Cup is in France, and if you are not a golfer, please give this a try.
I think you will get hooked on this event! Watching this team this past weekend reminded me of the same feeling I had in 1980 when the American Ice Hockey team beat the Russians in Lake Placid at the Olympics. It felt good! It felt like all was going to be alright with the world, and I was proud to be an American. This is a great feeling and I believe it is the start of something good! That’s the way I see it, from the sidelines.
Contributing columnist Mike Stegall a 27-year former OHSAA high school football official and current Darke County Commissioner.