The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Americans missed out on patriotism

Renee Rosenow

The excitement of the Olympic Games this past summer got me thinking of what other patriotic sporting events we have in the United States. There is the World Cup in soccer, World Baseball Classic in baseball and countless other smaller events as well. But one of the biggest took place last weekend. No, it wasn’t the Dallas Cowboys (“America’s Team”) versus the Packers. Nor was it the multiple pennant races going on in Major League Baseball. This event went more “under the radar” for most people. I’m talking about the Ryder Cup in professional golf.

The Ryder Cup should not be overlooked as one the more important sporting events for the United States in the sporting world. This past weekend, as it always is for both the United States and European teams, was filled with three days of passionate, well-played golf.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – is this guy really saying that a golf event can be one of the most important sporting events in such a sports-rich country as the United States?

Well, yes, I am. I will be the first to admit that watching golf is not the most exciting thing to do. I don’t watch golf every weekend for four days, and honestly, I tune in more when the major tournaments are being played.

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But as any true golf fan knows, the players, fans and people who cover the Cup recognize it is the biggest weekend in golf of that year.

Some people may not even consider golf to be a sport. How hard can it be to hit a little white ball consistently? Well, I challenge the nay-sayers to attempt the difficulty and creativity of a Phil Mickelson flop-shot, the 300-plus yard drives by almost every player on tour and the pressure situations people like Tiger Woods face. And no doubt this past weekend, every putt, chip, drive and mental decision was emphasized and highlighted. Mistakes are scrutinized and become more apparent than on any other weekend in golf.

This could be seen at any time, whether it was on Friday for the first rounds or on Sunday for the crucial final rounds. The intensity and importance the players put into the event could be seen by the emotions they wear directly on their sleeve.

Boo Weekly rode his driver down the tee box much like Adam Sandler did in Happy Gilmore. Sergio Garcia could be heard (yes heard) on television cameras screaming loudly and pumping his fists after making a crucial putt during the tournament. There were three days of consistent yelling, fist pumps and high-fives on a hole-by-hole basis.

During a normal weekend tournament, much of these emotions do not occur until the fourth round of play on Sunday, and not at all for some players who don’t express their emotions. Last weekend was definitely an exception.

The Ryder Cup is also one the most unique tournaments and events in sports. It has an international element of the Olympics, with eight countries being represented between the two teams this year. The style of play is one of the most unique in sports as well.

With golf being an individual event on any other weekend, the Ryder Cup employs the true team element. Twelve golfers on each side compete for three days using match play, for a total of 28 matches. The setup and rules of golf allow this to be one of the most diversely played events in sports.

Golfers play three different styles of match play throughout the weekend – foursome alternate shots, foursome best ball and single match play. All 12 golfers and their personal results went toward the team’s well being this week instead of their own. Team play makes it more of a universally important event than say, Tiger Woods winning the U.S. Open earlier this year.

This brings the patriotic element into the event. Golfers do literally play individually, but the results go to their team and to their country. Golf bags are decked-out in American flags and the colors red, white and blue instead of the normal sponsors’ logos are located all over the bags and the golf course. Players even sported red golf shirts, blue pants and different colored hats all weekend.

But perhaps what makes the Ryder Cup the Ryder Cup is the fans. Much like an international soccer game, chants of “Ole-Ole-Ole-Ole, Ole-Ole” are dominant when the event is held in Europe, while chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A” follow the Americans around the golf course when the event is in the United States.

Since the event was held in Kentucky last weekend, the “U-S-A” chants outweighed the “Ole” chants. It is the only weekend in golf where you will hear fans clapping when an opposing player hits a bad shot or misses a crucial putt, a normal “no-no” in golf etiquette. American flags were everywhere in the gallery.

The United States won the Ryder Cup this year, the first time it has done so since 1999. And in case you weren’t watching, none of the golfers were named Tiger Woods.

It’s too bad this past Sunday, the final day (noon to 6 p.m.), coincided with the football games that were on television. Don’t get me wrong – I love watching football, and caught myself channel surfing in between golf and football last Sunday.

But with the high ratings football received, many people missed out or didn’t even hear about the event, especially since the best golfer in the world and the only one which a lot of people know, Tiger Woods, was not playing.

Sure, the Ryder Cup isn’t the most exciting thing to watch compared to other things going on in sports. It doesn’t have the appeal of Michael Phelps winning eight gold medals in the Olympics, Super Bowl Sunday or even Brett Favre for most people.

But it allows professional golfers to compete for their country, much like athletes do in the Olympic Games. The importance of the event can be seen through the players and their emotions. We should also see it as sports fans.

Anderson is a senior print journalism major and a news editor for The Spectator.

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Americans missed out on patriotism