In all the euphoria of Paris and Europe’s majestic mangling of the supposedly all-conquering United States Ryder Cup team, it’s easy to forget that it all looked pretty bloody awful near the end of the first morning. We were 3-nil down and Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari were two down after 10 against Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed. The Anglo-Italian combo birdied 11 and 12 to square the match and it was still level after 14 holes but thoughts of a depressing, Cup-over-before-it-began series wipeout started creeping in.
Sitting near the top of the stand on the 18th, giving my jaw a workout with an overpriced but well-filled baguette, I was feeling a bit gloomy, not helped by the sight of Fleetwood’s second shot to the fearsome 15th apparently heading towards the water. Somehow it hung on to the edge of the green – collective will perhaps – and Fleetwood changed everything when he holed the putt for a birdie three. He went wild, hair flying, fist pumping so hard you feared his momentum might take him into the water across the green. The crowd went from subdued to super-charged in one glorious, mad moment and that was the end of subdued for the duration.
Fleetwood did the same again, more or less, at the 16th and when Molinari birdied the 17th, Woods and Reed found themselves shaking hands, defeated, deflated and, more than likely, bemused. The Americans never recovered and the Europeans never looked back. It was intoxicating.
It was noisy and there was unashamed cheering whenever the Americans missed a putt and put a ball in the water but out on the course, it didn’t seem wrong, it seemed spot on, gladiatorial, partisan but not vicious or nasty. I agree it isn’t for the purist but the Ryder Cup isn’t golf as usual – apart from, mostly, impeccable silence whenever a player is playing a shot; it’s golf off the leash, golf’s Cup Final, Six Nations, whatever compelling, no-quarter-asked-or-given sporting contest you can think of. The players give their all, pouring their heart and soul into the endeavour and so do the spectators. No wonder we’re all shattered at the end.
I know people who celebrated, cavorting on the 18th green, partying into the night and no doubt eating cake at Versailles and were still well enough to take selfies with Molinari at the Gare du Nord the next day. That wasn’t Maureen and me. Packed into the shuttle bus to the station for one last time (hooray), there was no chanting, no oleing, no celebrating. You’d have thought we’d lost, so quiet were we, unsmiling, concentrating grimly on remaining upright as the bus lurched along its route. We, too, had given our all and, like Tiger, had run out of gas.
If you’re thinking of going to a Ryder Cup as a punter sans privileges, prepare as though you’re going to walk in the Himalayas because you’ll undoubtedly face a route march before you even reach the golf course; and pack your own food or empty your bank account. I paid 5 Euro for a white Magnum out on the golf course – you must really have wanted that Magnum a friend said – but I made sure I enjoyed it.
The organisers were lucky it didn’t rain – wet punters disgruntle much more quickly than dry ones – and, of course, winning puts a gloss on everything.
It would be nice to slump in a heap for a week or two, absorbing it all, sorting through the memories – that fist bump with Fooch, that wave from Rory, that chat with Justin Thomas’s college friends – and soaking the aching feet. It was worth another early start on Wednesday just to visit the chiropodist.
And yesterday the alarm went off again at some ungodly hour, not quite of Paris proportions but early enough because I had to be at the golf club by 0700 to leave for Burnham & Berrow for the last day of the Women’s Senior Home Internationals. Ten of us, led and driven by the redoubtable Susan Sims in a tatty, rented minibus – it looked ok in the dark but as the day got brighter and we started to take an interest in our surroundings, it became apparent that whoever had cleaned the inside must have done so in the dark without any real idea of what the task involved. Whatever.
We reached Somerset safely and my spirits soared when I saw the golf course again – a lovely links, a proper course, all humps and hollows, under a brilliant blue sky. We were there to support Whittington Heath’s super senior Sue Spencer – Spenny – who was playing in her first home international series for England, a daunting prospect as well as an exciting one.
B & B is a glorious old-fashioned course – you go all the way out and come all the way back – and by the time I’d bought a sandwich and a pair of socks (having left mine neatly laid out at home), Spenny and co were well away. I caught up with them at the 8th, the very far end of the course by which time I was in my shirt sleeves, topping up my vitamin D levels. It was a joy to be there.
Spenny and her partner Karen Jobling, a member of Richmond in Yorkshire, who has also played cricket for England, lost on the 16th to the Welsh pair of Jane Rees (Minchinhampton) and Patricia Fernon (St Pierre) but it was to be Wales’s only point of the final day. Still, England, I am happy to report, finished second behind Ireland, with Scotland third. It was a close-run thing, with all three teams recording two wins but Ireland, the defending champions, captained by the ageless Valerie Hassett, won just enough games to retain the title. Hooray. Next year’s matches are at Co Sligo Golf Club, Rosses Point, which was where Dad grew up and was always his little bit of heaven on earth.
The atmosphere was a little less fevered than at Le Golf National – the WHGC contingent provided the bulk of the crowd and we were on our best behaviour – but the players were no less passionate, determined to represent their countries to the best of their abilities and in many ways it was even more sublime than Paris. No long walk to the bus for a start……