The best part about Team USA losing another Ryder Cup on foreign soil?
It means the next Cup will be at home.
In 2020, the world’s biggest golf event comes to Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin. It’s about an hour north of Milwaukee.
The course is a Pete Dye design and was completed in 1998. It’s English links golf transplanted onto the shores of Lake Michigan. It’s done so well that stepping onto the property feels like stepping into a different world.
Whistling Straits is no stranger to major golf events. The course has hosted three PGA Championships since 2004 along with a U.S. Senior Open.
The relationship built with the PGA of America during the three PGA’s is similar in strength to Oak Hill’s.
“It’s nice to be able to plug back in. The familiar faces. Knowing who the go-to people are,” said Lauren Ries, Marketing and Promotions Manager for the Ryder Cup.
A staff of six has already been on site for a full year and three years in advance of the Ryder Cup. That’s a year earlier that what is required to stage a PGA Championship.
Even though there are only 24 golfers who participate, the Ryder Cup is the largest golf event in the world. Ries says it’s so many little things that add up to a much larger event.
Team uniforms need to be created. There is a massive opening ceremony that needs arranging. Unlike stroke play events with 140-plus individual competitors, the Ryder Cup plans out more like a Super Bowl.
“Instead of having one locker room for all the players, you have a team room for Team USA and Team Europe. The same thing happens at the hotels,” Ries said.
The competition itself is also much different. At normal championships, all 18 holes will be occupied for most of the four days.
The first two days of the Ryder Cup use only four holes at a time for the four matches in play. Even the 12 singles matches on Sunday leave half the course dormant at any given moment.
Most matches don’t even use all 18 holes. Only 40 percent of Ryder Cup matches make it to the 18th hole and 60 percent require 17 holes. It significantly changes the sales strategy (Corporate suite sales were opened up to the general public on Monday). .
Obviously, the 18th hole loses the luster it might have at a stroke play event. However, corporate suite sales are usually a bit stronger at a Ryder Cup. Many fans prefer watching the event on course, but on TV instead of fighting giant crowds for limited viewing spots. The suite holders can come outside when the action arrives at their hole.
As Ries points out, the best spot on the course might be the first tee.
“It’s just electric. You have the ‘Ole, ole, ole!’ and the ‘U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A!’ People really get excited. It’s a bucket list (event),” she said.
In many ways, Whistling Straits unleashed a sleeping giant in Wisconsin golf. Before 2004, the last major championship hosted in the state was the 1933 PGA Championship.
Including the U.S. Open at Erin Hills in 2017, the Ryder Cup will be the fifth “major” in Wisconsin in 16 years.
“We have very passionate sport fans in the state of Wisconsin. We have very passionate golfers. I think the area was hungry for that,” said Mike O’Reilly, the long time head pro at Whistling Straits who is currently the Manager of Golf Operations. “It’s a celebration for entire state of Wisconsin. Means a lot to the area.”
The hope for Whistling Straits is an expansion of their reach to a more international audience. O’Reilly calls hosting the Ryder Cup a “crowning achievement.”
It’s also a unique one. Whistling Straits will be the first public course to host a Ryder Cup in nearly three decades.
That’s right. You can go play the same course Tiger and Rory and the rest of the Ryder Cup combatants will play in two years.
“Since 1991, you haven’t had the opportunity to go experience the course that the Ryder Cup is being hosted on,” O’Reilly said. “We’re pretty excited about that to give people the opportunity to play before it, to play after it.”
Although the players compete hard for the Cup, the organizers generally do not. Ryder Cup Europe is in charge of events held on the other side of the pond. They do their thing and the PGA of America is happy to do theirs.
“Their model and their experience is just different then how we do things,” Ries said. “It’s just moreso how European fans and golf fans operate. It’s just a different model.”
One thing is likely exactly the same: the goal for all who attend.
“We want all the stakeholders involved to say this is one of the greatest events I’ve ever been involved with,” O’Reilly said. “This was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.”
Last weekend’s results did put one small crimp into the marketing for 2020. Most PGA of America championships use the championship trophy at promotional events and appearances.
Since Europe won this year, they get to keep the trophy on their side of the Atlantic. Whistling Straits can use it, but the arrangements are more difficult since it’s there and not here.
That’s something Team USA can remedy in two Septembers.
For more information about attending, goto RyderCup.com