HAVEN, Wisc. – On one side of the red barn, decorated with lights and standing in a field off the course, is a painting of a man who looks like a Midwestern Rasputin. The closer you get to the barn, the man in the painting appears, purposefully zigzagging and zigzagging through the landscape, which is appropriate. Because the property is called “Zig’s” and the man is Robert Ziegelbauer and you don’t have to be a detective to understand the relationship between people and property.
“I don’t know what you’re looking for,” he says to a volunteer who has passed by, “but you’ve come to the right place.”
Brickmaker, who has lived in Sheboygan all his life, is a bricklayer by trade. He manages all of the rocks and boulders in Whistling Straits, and while masonry isn’t necessarily associated with golf courses, it doesn’t take many walks around the Ryder Cup venue to realize that responsibility is akin to overseeing pine tree care in Yellowstone is.
That is his job most of the weeks, that is. This week he turned his two hectare property into a social hall and campsite.
It is already a tradition for brick builders. This is the fifth time he has made his private property available to the public. It started in 2004 when a marshal stopped asking if he could park his van in Ziegelbauer’s field months before the PGA championship hit town. The inquiry gave Ziegelbauer an idea: his house, which is directly opposite the Whistling Straits entrance, could serve as a retreat for his classmates.
“People work so hard to get such an event off the ground, for weeks and months before that, and so much time during the week,” says Ziegelbauer. “I wanted to give something back to my colleague. This is for you.”
He received a temporary liquor license and a couple of power generators. The meeting was such a success among Whistling Straits staff and volunteers that it hosted it at the 2010 and 2015 PGAs along with the 2007 US Senior Open.
You don’t have to be long on the premises to see the attraction. There’s a bar in the barn – which this reporter believes should be a staple of any barn – and a mobile water point outside between the barn and the brickmaker’s house. About a dozen mobile homes have anchored in Ziegelbauer’s shipyard for the week. The grounds are pervaded by a hearty smoke from the grill that sweats out dogs for $ 1 and burgers and brats for $ 2. There will be a live band on the weekend. What Ziegelbauer does not have, the people deliver.
“People come and ask what they can do,” says Ziegelbauer. “People will bring additional generators. People will open their RVs to people they are about to meet. when they need a place to crash. I swear you’ve never seen so many people just get along. “
Most of the site is littered with tournament staff, as the field for the parking lots has been co-opted by the media and tournament officials. But this is not an exclusive matter; There are a handful of people who got lost or heard rumors about the Shepherd Pub and wanted to see if it existed and they are all greeted with a welcome wave to the same tune.
“That was one of my favorite parts, seeing how people treat each other,” says Ziegelbauer. “You see people hearing and helping others’ problems, or someone who is lonely can find a little friendship when they need it. It has become a community. “
It’s also something of a Ryder Cup analgesic. Because what began as an exhibition has turned into a spectacle, and above all for good. But it has also been accused of being bloated and overpriced and corporate and excessive, which has led some to wonder if the event was too far from their true spirit. In contrast, the barn-converted social hall is a reminder of what the original Ryder Cup was all about, with open doors and cheap drinks and a down-to-earth atmosphere that makes strangers instant friends. (Should anyone accuse brickbuilders of commercialization, they will donate their winnings of the week to the local Boys & Girls Club.)
“This is for everyone,” says Ziegelbauer. “The more the better. If you like people, if you like a good time, this is the place.”
So, should you be in Whistling Straits this weekend and hear the laughter from the fields across the course, let the red barn be your compass and the scent of crickets be your North Star. On Tuesday evening, a guest asked a bartender when Zig was closed, only to have a worker on Pfeifenstrasse yell: “We won’t close until the last stranger leaves!” To cheer.
Ziegelbauer looked down from his front steps. He knew it was a lie. There are no strangers at Zig.
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