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How I learned to stop worrying and love the Ryder Cup

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By now you know it’s Ryder Cup time and golf is sliding into its “Keeping up with the Kardashians” moment, as it does every two years. OMG what are they wearing? Who is paired with who? And, God forbid, a wardrobe malfunction or a presser coup-d’état against leadership happens. So much drama.

While there was never a moment I cared about the Kardashians, there was a time when Ryder Cup Fever had me losing my mind every other September. I was a flaky 19-year-old in 1991, and I caught none of the hoopla at Kiawah and the War by the Shore. I didn’t really get the golf-bug until I was away at college and Tiger Woods won his third U.S. Am in a row. By the time Justin Leonard sank “the putt” in Brookline I was full-blown, out-of-my mind Ryder Cup crazy.

The following years didn’t help much: you know the drill. Massive, lopsided losses. Our “favored” team getting thrashed by the likes of David Gilford or Victor Dubuisson or That Guy who wore the Sergio Costume & Putted Better than The Real Sergio Ever Could. Those guys were busy beating Phil, Tiger, David and Dustin and everyone else. This didn’t stop me; no, rather it emboldened me. I argued with Euros about how good we really were. I built a spreadsheet once, in a moment of futile sadness, that showed how superior our American team was. American wins, putting averages, strength of field stuff – all very neatly organized. We lost that year. By a lot.

I soldiered on.

I forgave Hal Sutton for pairing Tiger and Phil. Then I changed my mind. I was on-site all week at Valhalla in 2008, my dad and me. While I’m not positive, I’m pretty sure our Valhalla crew started the sarcastic call-back to the Euro chants of “Ole” by mocking them with “No way, no way, no way, no way – nooo waaayy, NOOO WAAAY” as Anthony Kim walked around high-fiving everything, even trees, flagsticks, random Euro fans, everything, the dude was awesome that year. Maybe we didn’t start it, but considering the bloodbaths in the years before, it sure felt like the first time ever. I bled with the rest of us the very next year when we gave the trophy right back. To this day I partly blame the gods of Sky and Rain for what happened at Celtic Manor. Seriously, who holds a Worldwide Sensational Tournament at the Bottom of the Ocean (some call it Wales) in September? But I was still all-in on Team USA.

I was a smack-talking fool in 2012 as we marched into singles Sunday, where, clearly, we always won anyway. (This was the salve that soothed me all those years, about how the Euros usually won some archaic format we never played like “four ball” or “foursomes” – but singles – that was the real test of who’s better). Then …we…lost… on Sunday. The Meltdown at Medinah sealed it. It broke me. I said foul things about our boys, our coaches, even the WAGS and the clothing choices and the fans. All of it. I was done. Not watching again, not caring, bah humbug.

This was my way for 23 months.

Then, well, you know…I’d watch again. See what happened. The Tom Watson hanging party is what happened. We lost (again), thus validating my abandonment of the event. Now listen, I get it; it would be easy to say I was spent/done/over on the Ryder Cup because we sucked at it. Which would be mostly true. But giving up gave me: perspective. I went into 2016 with a curiosity I hadn’t had in years. There was this Task Force, which, with perspective, is freaking hilarious. I assume at their secret HQ they considered capes at one point and I promise you Tiger has an invisible plane from his time spent with the SEALs. Was this going to work? Like, really work?

And then, holey moley, it worked. They won.

But what was I watching? What got me fired up?

I was thoroughly enjoying the spectacle of it all. It’s an exhibition. I know you’re all like “OK, Jack Nicklaus, I get it, blah blah.” But ole’ Jackie has got it right. It’s a blast to not care who wins it. I mean, c’mon that Rory-Reed match was flat-out fantastic. Then right behind it, That Guy who wore the Sergio Costume & Putted Better than The Real Sergio Ever Could was in a barn-burner with Phil. It was great to watch, fun to see what happened. I was glued to the set, but not once was I in a screaming mood. There wasn’t that lump in my throat watching a Euro line up an 80ft putt through a clown’s mouth, 2 bunkers and pure mud and worrying he’d actually make it. I just wanted to enjoy watching what happened – I was there for the exhibition of it all. Watching the best in the world, for Glory only, no money (not really anyway) throwing giant haymakers at each other. All for giggles, nothing else. Brilliant!

I’ll watch a lot of the show in France later this month; will I pull for Team USA? Of course I will. But I’m not too wound up to care what happens; there will be no screaming at the TV, no lumps in my throat. We are heavily favored, again, which if the last 30 years is right, means the Team Euro is gonna really enjoy this one. I won’t even care if Webb pops his tee ball up on the first tee again.

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A married father of 3 daughters (who cheer competitively, pray for me), Chris routinely takes his life in his hands by asking his wife to play golf all over Indiana. Deftly chiseling his handicap down from 18 to 8 in just 20 short years, his dedication to being a first-class golf nerd comes full circle as he documents the far reaches of his brain in printed word. He spends most days fiendishly plotting to replace Matt Ginella. If you're playing in the Indy area and a man wearing pink golf pants and chomping on a cigar is describing a golf bet so complicated only he can win it, tell my wife I'll be home in an hour.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Greg V

    Sep 14, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    Funny, I’m an American, but I like to pull for the Euros. All those years when the Texans won easily deserves payback.

    • Kevin

      Sep 14, 2018 at 4:56 pm

      Pulling for the Euros, your no American! You should be ashamed of yourself and I am ashamed for you.

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