And so it finally came to pass and the day dawned. A day which had been a long time in the planning, in a land where people were born to sing and spin pass the oval ball. A land of green, where a man dared to dream and carved a golf course from a woody Welsh valley. A man who knew about golf and the embroidered cloths of heaven of William Butler Yates and treading softly on dreams.
“One day” the man said to his friend “One day, they will play the Ryder Cup here”.
His friend smiled. It takes a brave man to dream. But he kept faith, spent his millions wisely and his reward was the match dreamt up by another man of vision. Samuel L. Ryder. The little gold cup with the figure of Abe Mitchell was going to Wales.
But dreams and the plans of mice and men do not always go according to plan. Things happen. Things like the Fed Ex Cup. The power of the American PGA. And rain.
“Bring us back a piece of turf” said Gus. “Any divot will do”.
“Might have to be a ball marker” said Big Rich. “Security will be a bit tight”.
Big Rich put his clubs in the boot, smuggled in some fruit cake, filled up with fuel roared off to Wales.
Piggy banks were raided. Hits on credit cards and flights booked to the course in the Welsh valley. Golfing fans ring fenced the date and fed the details into their sat nav.
Celtic Manor. Wales
The golfing fraternity from around the world packed their bags ready for the battle on the fairways. In Holland some golf Pros checked their passports, cleaned their clubs and counted down the hours before their trip to Wales. To watch the Big Boys on Tour and play some golf. A simple uncomplicated plan. The plan of mice, men and Golf Pros.
The Americans made last minute preparations before leaving home.
“Got the shades and the sunblock?” said Captain Pavin.
“And the waterproofs. Just in case”.
The boxes were ticked and Team American flew in with their entourages, wives, sweethearts and shades. And their hopes and dreams.
“Not sure I like the suits and shades” said Ruggy as the team posed on the runway. But the suits were not the problem. In the hold of the aircraft was The Ryder Cup gear. The shades were the least of it.
The Golf Police was still struggling with the concept of the lost remote.
“Three days” I said over the ironing board. “It is only three days out of the year”.
It was Thursday. The day before and the world watched, waited and held its breath. The Americans unpacked the cases and the security guards did their press ups and kept the shades on.
The shirts of the Golf Police hung on hangers with their neatly pressed creases. The duvet cover and pillow cases folded in neat piles. The supper sat patiently in the fridge and the flowers in the vase were a splash of bright yellow on an autumn day.
“Three days of the most boring game on the planet. I’m leaving home” said Daughter No. One.
The thespian remained blissfully unaware. Match play did not figure large in a world of rehearsals, understudy runs, director’s notes and Juliet searching for her Romeo on a chilly balcony.
Weather girls, with their Hollywood smiles and tight tops, warned of severe conditions as an ominous low front crossed the Atlantic, heading for Wales with its green and pleasant valleys. And Celtic Manor.
The postman delivered the mail early on Friday. Very early. He played golf three times a week, when his round had been completed and all the letters and bills dropped onto mats or mail boxes. Twenty two handicapper with a vicious slice off the tee. A top flite man who had yet to learn about feel around the greens. I saw him through the window as the kettle boiled. He smiled and gave a thumbs up. For Team Europe. One more chore and the remote and chair were mine.
“They said on the radio its going to be wet” said the Golf Police “That golf match in Wales. might be cancelled”.
“They don’t cancel. That’s why we have waterproofs and course drainage”.
The Galvins were in the utility room. Black with flashes of white. The rolls Royce of weather gear. I sent Big Rich a text.
You did pack your Galvins. Big Rich pinged the reply back.
Yup but forgot the canoe or the ark. x
Ruggy sent a text.
Have you seen the weather in Wales x
It was going to be a wet. The caddies packed extra towels and gloves with grip.
I waited until the house was peaceful and turned on the golf. The picture was not sharp. High definition rain is still rain. The screen was a blur of rain and umbrellas. The Americans had ditched the shades and their wet weather gear was not Galvin Green. Another text pinged.
Lets hope the waterproofs work. Aesthetically, they failed the test. Ruggy
I sent a text to Big Rich.
Are those suits really that bad and can you swim x
They are worse. Some American guy just offered to buy my Galvins. The burgers are £7 a pop and the security guard confiscated my cake. x ps I can swim
The green keepers fought their battle with the mops but it was an unequal struggle. It was like soaking up the oceans with a sponge. It was a Hercules moment. Cleansing the Augean stables or holding up the sky for Atlas while he nipped off to get the apples. The little green and pleasant Welsh valley became a torrent of gushing water from the heavens. A decision was made. After a few holes played, the golfers went back to the club house with their umbrellas and caddies and golf was cancelled. The commentators tore up their scripts, found footage of past Ryder cups and waffled for six hours.
Big Rich found shelter and ate the fish and chips. Burgers but no cake. Queues snaked around the hospitality tents and fans bantered in the mud. Greens became lakes and bunkers filled with the unforgiving rain.
The stars of the show retreated to the locker room and restaurant. They ate, fiddled on their iphones, tweeted and played table tennis. The caddies dried the clubs and bought new gloves, socks and towels.
Unseen, a figure from the American camp slipped away in the rain and crept into one of the merchandising tents.
“All your waterproofs please, Sir” he said. He had an East Coast accent and wet shoes and took all the waterproofs.
The family came home early.
I explained about the rain delay. There were other questions from the sofa.
“Is this the Open?”
“Who is playing?”
“Is anyone else on America’s side?”
“Who is the blue team?”
“If the scoreboard for America is red, how come Europe are wearing red and not blue?”
“When does it end”
I turned the sound up and ignored the questions. The score at the end of the day was 2 and a half to one and a half to the Americans.
Saturday I watched the early games. The thespian sent a text.
Massive favour. Pls can you find my passport. In my room somewhere. Might be in the biscuit tin xxxx
Can I do it Monday? x
I watched the matches inbetween searching for the passport. It was not in the biscuit tin.
The thesp sent another text.
Try the smarty bowl where I keep my bracelets and stuff. xx
Between chips, putts and shots of brilliance and muddy lies, I searched again.
Not in the smarty bowl xx
I pressed the record button and went to keep a promise. Watched the hockey game. 1-0 loss to a reverse flick by an ex Irish International.
“Hard luck” I said to Daughter No. One.
“Coming for a drink?”
“Good idea” said the Golf Police.
“Best get back” I said.
Bad light stopped play, we ate supper early and the passport was found in a box of books.
Sunday should have been the last day. The day of the singles. To the victor the spoils. Game over. Cup won or retained but the mice and men bit went wrong again and the heavens opened and flooded the Welsh valley. The fans were stopped at the gate.
“You’ll have to wait in your car, Sir” said security.
They sat. For six hours.
The Head green keeper rallied his troops and fought the rain again. The fans sat and the Dutch called it a day headed towards England with their clubs.
Sunday finished with Europe three points clear. The cup was in the bag. A text pinged.
Watching or playing tomorrow. Ruggy x
The Sheriff decided for the group.
You can only watch so much rain. Let’s play.
The swindle went for the sky plus option and took the clubs to the fairways.
“It’s in the bag” I said to Big Rich over coffee. He was back with his Galvins and tales of mud, queues, rains and monster tee shots.
“Don’t be so sure” he said.
“It’s in the bag” I said to the Golf Pro.
“It will go to the wire” he said.
In Wales the players stood on the first tee. Ahead lay a misty morning and the battle of the singles. We headed to our own tees, fairways and greens.
We played behind a three and four ball.
“Look like they can play” said Gus.
We told them how to play the eighth and the tenth. Inside information. Entente cordial on the fairways. They smiled. Teed the ball up and hit it out of sight.
“Mind me asking your handicap” I said to the lady with the neat waterproofs.
“Zero” she said. “Zero”.
We slunk away and left them to their game and course management. They were the Dutch Pros returned from the rain and mud of Celtic Manor. Their plans shredded by the rain.
Our round was quick and we got the best seats by the flat screen and watched the singles matches go to the wire.
“Told you” said the Pro. “Told you it would go to the wire”. He was not a man who like to be wrong. He got his wish.
Rickie Fowler blitzed the last four holes to halve his match with Molinari the Elder. And the role of Ryder Cup legend fell to Graham McDowell.
On the seventeenth, Hunter Mahan could only watch in lonely desolation as G Mac sunk the putt to win the Ryder Cup for Europe. They had fought the fight, the Yanks and the rain and brought the cup back for a golfing legend watching in Spain. Seve Ballesteros. GMac was the man and no one wished to walk in the shoes of the unfortunate Hunter Mahan.
The cup was held up to the autumnal sun, peeping from the clouds. It glinted on the gold and the figure of Abe Mitchell. The Pro from the course on the headland, with the flashing lighthouse. Sam Ryder’s golf pro and friend. Speeches were made and each European player wore his national flag with pride, and listened to an anthem chosen by a committee in Brussels.
The Americans bid farewell to Celtic Manor and the Cup and clutched their hearts, as they listened to their National Anthem and the lowering of the stars and stripes. Pavin was gracious in defeat and thanked his men. And there was something in his humility which reached out and touched the golfing fans around the world. Much as Sam Ryder would have wished. It was ony a game. And he knew the team would ditch the shades and take the waterproof waterproofs next time. The baton was passed to Chicago. The next chapter of the Ryder Cup.
And somewhere in America, Big Bill sat down and sent an email. He also knew, it was only a game.
The Golf Police took the remote control back and watched Leicester Tigers lose to Saracens by four points. Scrums, tries and bonus points. Backs fleet of foot and the dark arts of the front row.
When the house was quiet, I sent an email to the Head Honcho of the PGA.
Subject – Trampling on Dreams
There are some things more important than chasing the dollar. The Ryder Cup deserves more than being squeezed at the end of a busy schedule. Some things in life are beyond price. Ask the fans. Ask the Dutch Golf Pros. Ask the caddies. Ask the greenkeepers. Ask Big Rich. Ask Seve. Ask the man who dare to dream.