From the sidelines
By Mike Stegall
There was a lot of sport on TV last weekend. I think I’ve seen almost everything except soccer and baseball. It was all there for me; NASCAR, IMSA racing, high school football, professional football, college football, and of course golf. This was no ordinary golf weekend, this was the week of the Ryder Cup. This event was started in 1927 by Samuel Ryder, an English golf enthusiast and entrepreneur who came up with the idea of selling “penny packets” of seeds for gardens. For those of you who are not that into golf I would suggest at least trying to watch this event. It’s one of the most exciting and heartbreaking events you will see! Ask any golfer and they will tell you that watching the Ryder Cup brings out every human emotion.
I have to admit that I had lost interest in the Ryder Cup for the past 8 years. The European team just seemed to whip us every time and it wasn’t usually close which makes it exciting. I thought this year won’t be any different. In fact, I told my golf buddies that I thought the American team would be beaten worse than the American women in the Solheim Cup, the women’s Ryder Cup. The Solheim Cup is a biennial golf tournament (like the Ryder Cup) for professional golfers, in which teams from Europe and the United States participate. It is named after the Norwegian-American golf club manufacturer Karsten Solheim (inventor of the PING Golf Clubs), who was a driving force behind its creation. That year the American women were beaten at 15-13 and I thought the men would be beaten a lot worse. The reason for me was very simple; I thought that this group of players hadn’t really bothered about it for the past 10 years. In fact, several sports reporters have said in the past that the American team was “twelve guys on twelve planes and ate twelve different meals,” which means they didn’t play as a team and really didn’t want to know each other. It looked like they didn’t even like each other sometimes. I also thought that the Americans really don’t care that much about the event that they only have to do it for a week to get away from the tour. To me it always seemed like the European team only lived for the Ryder Cup, worked harder for it, and enjoyed each other’s company a lot more than the Americans, and that resulted in more fun playing and better golfing.
I’ll admit that I forgot one thing: this was a new generation of American golfers. This group had grown up together for the most part, had known each other since childhood and played against each other and, believe it or not, LOVE YOURSELF! This was a really young team and if you watched them you could see it was going to be different; A fire burned there that had not been seen in a long time. Once again, 10 of the top 15 golfers in the world played for the Americans, and the oldest was Dustin Johnson, aged 37. This team is young and played like they wanted to completely destroy the European team … and so did they with a record 19-9! It was refreshing to see how an American team really cares about this event.
As I watched, I was stunned how the Americans approached every day, you could tell they really wanted to! They dominated from the start and there was never any doubt even though I told my golf buddies Randy Breaden and Dale Ary on Sunday that it wasn’t over yet, even though the Americans were leading 11-6 at the time. I was wrong, it was over from the first shot because the Americans never let the European team breathe … it was a complete defeat! Then Rory McIlroy was asked by the European team and one of the best golfers in the world in the interviews what he thought the difference was in this American team. Rory said he found this team to be very talented and most importantly, “they actually bought their way 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 what they would rather do to win a major championship or a Ryder Cup and they said, “The Ryder Cup!”
So I’m proud to admit that I was so wrong about this team that they will be good for the next 10 years or so I think. The Ryder Cup is in France in two years, and if you are not a golfer please give it a try.
I think you will love this event! Watching this team last weekend reminded me of the same feeling I had in 1980 when the American ice hockey team beat the Russians in Lake Placid in the Olympics. It feels good! It felt like the world was going to be all right, and I was proud to be American. It’s a great feeling and I think it’s the beginning of something good! That’s how I see it from the sidelines.
Contributing Columnist Mike Stegall, a 27-year-old former OHSAA high school football official and current Darke County commissioner.