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Ryder Cup High

[This dates back to a time, in the late 1990s, when I wrote a monthly column for theNewfoundland Telegram about connections between Ireland and Newfoundland, where I had been brought up for a while and visited a number of times since.]

When the USA Ryder Cup team of 1971 beat the Great Britain team 18.5 to 13.5, the powers that be finally accepted that some bolstering of Britain was needed. Ireland came to the rescue first, and next thing you knew, the US beat Great Britain & Ireland 19 to 13! The mobilization of Commonwealth help was proposed next but summarily rejected. It was some pressure from Jack Nicklaus, I gather, that finally lead in 1979 to the subsuming of British Ryder Cup identity into a European team.

My brother, John, has just invited me to my first ever Ryder Cup party. What a concept! He’s having a few guys (or ‘lads’ as they’re hereabouts called) over for an all weekend affair. He’s procured a keg of Murphy’s stout and a keg of lager, which he will install in the kitchen. There’s a Scottish lad involved who will apparently imbibe a good portion of both. Food will be strictly order in or take out.

John isn’t going as far as renting DVD, but his television is sizeable enough to bring some degree of viewing spectacle to the event. He had independent plans to put his television on a bracket on the wall, but they haven’t come to fruition yet.

Somehow I can’t quite picture the whole thing. After all, it ain’t the Superbowl, or the All-Ireland Football Final (also happening this weekend). It’s two groups of very straight and highly groomed men hitting anatomical-sized balls around a series of conjoined fields, slowly. A far sight from the rí-rá agus ruaille buaille (that’s ‘stirring stuff’ in sober English) of your beloved hockey and our beloved hurling.

There’s more interest than ever in the Ryder Cup this year in Ireland because of the successful application by the ‘K Club’ in County Kildare for the 2005 tournament. This will be the biggest professional golf event in Ireland since the Canada Cup was played at Portmarnock, County Dublin in 1960. The man behind the Country Club, Dr Michael Smurfit, pointed out when the news came through that: “The importance of this event for Irish sport, Irish tourism and for the country as a whole cannot be overstated. All our clubs will benefit from this decision and I feel it will lead to more great courses being designed and developed here.”

The course, designed by Arnie Palmer, is being touted as the best European Ryder Cup venue yet, although there’s still some work to be done of the greens apparently. Palmer commented: “There can be no greater accolade than to have our creation played by the elite of world golf, the Ryder Cuppers.”

Among the Cuppers this year are two Irishmen from either side of the Border, Padraig Harrington from Dublin and Darren Clarke from Tyrone. Harrington’s father is a Cork man and so will be as excited by the All-Ireland Cork vs. Meath Final on Sunday as by his son’s performance in the singles. He told the Irish Times recently: “Through the wonders of modern communications and the help of … Murphy’s Brewery, I hope to be watching the All-Ireland live on the screen in Boston… By my calculations, it should be over before the … singles gets under way.”

The other big Irish interest is, of course, the venue, which is very near Brighton, home to something like 30,000 Irish. One more Irish link is that Harrington’s caddie, Dave McNeilly, is from the North, and will be very important to European morale, apparently – ‘a bit of a character’, by all accounts.

Whatever happens, by the time you read this, I will have consumed an excessive amount of alcohol and watched more golf than one man should by rights be able for. Wish me good luck!

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