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Warning -- perhaps not much interest to non-golf fans, ie. probably many of you!! But we did promise........
When we were on tour in the States this summer Nicko called a golf pro mate who happened to have Nick Faldo standing next to him, so of course, Faldo (I will impolitely call him that to avoid confusion with our Nick!) being six times major winner and a hero of Nicko's, they had a chat. Faldo said he was starting to learn drums so of course, as the two live fairly close together in Florida, Nicko offered to give him lessons in exchange for golf lessons. This led to Faldo asking Nicko to join his Ryder Cup "motivational" team, and of course, being a Faldo/golf/sports fan myself I had to go along to carry his sticks!
I flew out the Wednesday before arriving in the early hours of Thursday after a painful delayed flight into Louisville via Chicago. Nicko had been there a couple of days watching the practice rounds being totally obsessed and I met up with him for breakfast and then we went off with a couple of eager helpers (thanks John and Ion!! Don't give up your day job!) he had met in the bar on arrival to set up his kit at the hotel where the two teams were staying. The European team had a secure area of 2 rooms, one a lounge and bar and the other for dining and it was in the latter we set up the 2 kits. One was Nicko's own and the other was graciously contributed by Premier. On opening the boxes we were blinded by the outrageous pink colour -- not very metal at all!! Keeps you awake though. Then went off to Valhalla, a fantastic course, to check out our hospitality tent -- which was stunning -- and check out the opening ceremony.
In the evening we went back to the team hotel where, after dinner, Nicko gave his usual energetic and very funny performance and got various members to the team to join in, particularly a very keen Faldo. Nicko was at one point telling everyone that its best to hit the centre of the skin not the edges for sound, and triple major winner Padraig Harrington suggested it was the same with the fairways so Nicko got him up on the kit to kick off the team involvement. Most of the guys had a go and really seemed to enjoy the whole thing, especially Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and that wonderfully eccentric Spaniard Miguel Jiminez (Nicko says thanks for the wine!). Faldo even got everyone around the kit for a pic with Nicko which I know he will forever treasure!! And we were even allowed to stay for his final evening pep talk to the team which was a very special experience. Everyone was very relaxed the whole evening and obviously getting on well and I really thought that with such a positive atmosphere we would get off to a great start the following day.
Sadly this was not to be and we went down 3-1 in both the first day's foursomes and the fourballs . Went out on the course to watch at times but it is quite difficult to see a lot of the action as you have four games at the same time so we spent a lot of time watching on the large plasma screens in our hospitality tent with the rest of our ever increasing gang of reprobates. And of course had a few drinks to keep our spirits up. Still optimistic though, a lot can happen yet.
In the evening went to one of those great steak places you get in America and the claret flowed freely. After dinner we spent some time on 4th street, a really cool pedestrian area of bars and restaurants which of course were packed, largely with Brits it seemed. They had a large stage there and older bands like Three Dog Night and Average White Band played though you may be too young to remember them -- and I didn't realise they were still going. But they can certainly still play well! Paul Azinger the American team captain took all the US team onstage there the night before it started for what they call a "Pep Rally". Propaganda I call it. The purpose was to really get the the Americans behind his team. His stating that it was OK for them to cheer when our boys missed a putt or went in the rough was a bit unsporting but fortunately it was ignored by all but the inane few local supporters.
On the first couple of days we were up are 5.30am as play starts at 8.05 and we wanted to get there early to get a good place in the stand behind the first tee. The atmosphere is terrific and although heavily outnumbered the Euro fans held their own in the noise stakes. All the American crowd could do was yell U-S-A whereas we had the songs. Of course in America there is no football (well not really despite the best efforts of Beckham, not compared to other sports anyway -- and what there is does not generate the same atmosphere l am reliably told) so little tradition in the chant stakes. Something they need to learn before Wales 2010 so we can have a real singing contest. Radio One DJ Spoony was also invited out by Faldo to take care of the team music and he did a great job of leading the Euro support action group around the first tee, especially on the second day when we needed to fight back. And we did a bit getting some ground back to go into the final day at with a fighting chance.
On this second day we were again in the hospitality area a lot of the afternoon taking the excursions for some live action and to the shop to get Ryder Cup shirts for my boys and of course myself. We had both been given a European Team cap which of course we wore all the time, being total groupies!! As our chances improved so did the flow of beer and after play we headed back to the hotel and had another in the bar. Went back to the room to get showered before heading back to that great steak restaurant , plenty of time so laid down for 5 min..........then......ring ring....who's that ....its Nicko..... what time is it ?.....1.30....AM...BLOODY 'ELL....yes slept like a baby, missed dinner and all that fun.........S**T!! Not like me at all -- excuses?? Jet lag, overindulgence, very early mornings, too much fresh air .....age?? sod it
He was calling to say he had been asked back to the team rooms for a bit of banging around and had asked if we could go inside the ropes for the last day with the wives, girlfriends and caddies and it was on. Very exciting and well worth getting woken up to hear.
So up bright and early again to go down with Stenson's famed caddy Fanny Sunnesson, who used to caddy for Faldo. Being Swedish she was a great fan and had been to our shows there and she looked after us fantastically well. We drove to Valhalla with Olly Olazabel and Fanny to pick up the armbands, headed for hospitality for some breakfast and then to the first tee. Inside the ropes you can basically go anywhere except on the tees, fairways or greens so we were able to watch the first tee offs from right by the tee and sometimes from behind the players and if you are into golf this is quite some experience. A lot of these guys aren't that big but hit the ball a country mile. We saw the first three tee off then followed Karlsson for a while (what a great performance he put up) and then sort of worked our way back spending some time with Poulter too who also had an incredible showing with 4 points out of 5, the highest of anyone in either team. We were able to sit by the sides of the greens which was fantastic seeing these guys from so close up. The weather all 3 days was clear and very hot and the last day probably hottest of all. Although reasonably balanced through about 10 holes or so the Americans gradually drew ahead of us and sadly ended out worthy winners. There has been comment in the press about the massive crowds there, around 45,000 spread around the course. But walking round we thought they were well behaved and generally sporting.....maybe because they looked like winning!! There was a lot of U-S-A chanting but little unfair behaviour and generally they all ignored Azinger's poorly judged exhortation to boo our guy's misses!
We ended up on the 17th where the last few, largely losing, battles ended and were amidst the swarm of media, players, caddies, partners and hangers on like me and Nicko. It was quite an atmosphere and of course the American team were in great spirits -- they really needed a win here after losing 5 out of the last six contests so it really is set up for Wales on 2010 now. I am sure the home crowds will give Team Europe at least as much support as Team America got here
That evening we were invited again to the team hotel for a few drinks. Some were initially a bit morose but generally the atmosphere was good and again everyone was very friendly- we can't thank Nick, Ollie and the team enough for making us so welcome and allowing to get close and experience the action. (Also thanks in particular to Maria Bohman from the Faldo office and of course Fanny) The Ryder Cup is most certainly one of the most exciting sporting events there are and I have watched avidly on TV for many years so it was a great honour attending in this way. In the early hours I ended up again on 4th Ave where the bars were filled with singing Europeans drowning their sorrows. Naturally I joined them til the early hours. A great end to a great few days.
Ps -- one thing l did notice is that these guys may play golf but it does not look at like what the rest of us play!!!
A NUMBER OF SHOTS ACCOMPANYING THIS AND IN THE GALLERY WERE KINDLY GIVEN TO US FOR THE WEBSITE BY DAVID CANNON OF GETTY IMAGES -- YOU CAN DEFINITLEY TELL THE DIFFERENCE TO MINE, HIS ARE FOCUSSED AND VERY GOOD. THANKS DAVID, MUCH APPRECIATED. COME TO ONE OF OUR SHOWS ANYTIME.