As the leaves start to fall and the air now carries that distinct cold warning of what lies ahead, it's hard to believe that less than 10 days ago I was sat on the lush banks of the 16th green at Gleneagles, awaiting my first close up encounter of Ryder Cup golf. Jacket off, blue sky overhead, a pint of Guinness close by, a friendly chat with American and European fans alike - I was finally finding my stride, my first Ryder Cup.
Tempted by The Celtic Manor 2010, but through an inexcusable mixture of laziness, family commitments and pure unknowing, it wasn't to be. This time was different, the reverse in fact, lots of effort, gentle persuasion of the wife; 'a must attend business trip to Scotland' and the subconscious roar of Medinah carrying me forward, this Ryder Cup was not too be missed.
From start to finish Gleneagles had a confident air about it, no matter who the winner, they were going to put on a big time event. I have to give it to them, they delivered. Not a single queue at the bar, not a single bit of litter to be seen anywhere, fairways and greens like bowling greens, this was as professional as large events get.
Many had warned me that the Ryder Cup can be frustrating with distant roars making you feel like you are constantly missing out on the action. Not so at Gleneagles. Opposite every main vantage point stood giant HD screens relaying all the action live. So if you were waiting for players to arrive on your hole and Rose sank another unthinkable putt elsewhere, you were able to share the moment just the same but with 50,000 fans. Sensational to say the least!
Another striking advantage for Gleneagles was the space around each hole. As opposed to a links course, every hole provided its own natural raised amphitheatre to accommodate the masses. And when you panned out from the action, all you could see were thousands upon thousands of tribal supporters lining the glen, roaring their team on. You couldn't help but be transported to a ‘Celtic pitch battle’ back in the midst of time.
If the fans are the electricity that charge the event, then players are the willing but uncertain rockstars that light it up. It amazed me how much joy can be derived from seeing the likes of Bubba taunt the crowd on the 1st tee: a wave of his arm, a hand cupped to his ear, only to smash it nonchalantly far and centre in the fairway. This was live entertainment at its best.
The Ryder Cup and its characters will continue to grow and grow, one hopes within the parameters of what we expect from the great game but nothing is guaranteed. The stakes are rising, the fallouts bigger and you only have to look at other mainstream sports and how far this event has come in the last decade to realise this chivalrous exhibition of professional sport is unlikely to continue delivering such unspoilt pleasure indefinitely. It just might be that right now is the golden age of Ryder Cup golf. My advice, start planning your Minnesota trip now, if it’s even close to Gleneagles, it's a business trip worth making!
Written by Julian Sykes, Founder of VPAR