So it's Thursday night, a week after the beginning of the Ryder Cup in Minnesota, and I'm still smiling! Life has gotten in the way of getting Part 3 out sooner, but here it is!
I left off at coming home Wednesday night from the practice round which was AWESOME! It was so fun to see the players, the course, the fans, AND the Merchandise Tent! The Friday adventure came about sort of last minute (similar to Sunday)...I knew my friend Deb wanted to go, but I wasn't sure if she would be able to go with family or not. When she asked if Friday could work for me, the answer was of course YES!! We had our ticket adventure, finding some in our price range, and now we would be picking them up on our way to the gate.
While the practice round time was great, I have to admit being there for the actual competition was beyond my expectations...I wanted to experience the electricity, the passion, the people, and the sense of team. Ryder Cup Friday, here we come!!
Thursday was a busy day at work and then coordinating what our plan was for Friday. The morning tee times started at 7:35am and we found out the first shuttles would leave Canterbury at 6am with gates opening at 6:30am. Doing the math to get there just before 6am meant I was leaving my house at 2:15am. OY!
I picked out my clothes got my bags ready so I could try to sleep as long as possible. My back & neck were definitely sore but I think my pure excitement was numbing some of it. The one great thing about driving in the middle of the night is that there is no traffic! I picked up my friend Deb right on time and we hit the road. The traffic was about the same as Wednesday (even though we were an hour earlier!) and we ran into the same wait at the same exit.
What I didn't expect was that there were at least 3 times as many cars already there before 6am than there were when we got there Wednesday. We parked and got our stuff together and headed for the line....what we initially thought was close to the end was about the first third - the line ran through 3 rows of parking lot cars before it got to the rope maze and to the security stations. I immediately realized that we weren't going to at the golf course by 6:30am!! I texted my Friday ticket connection to let him know we would be later than we expected and jokingly said he could come and pick us up if he wanted!
The upside of being in line is that you get the chance to meet some nice people. The guys behind us were waiting on 2 others (who had the tickets!) and they were looking forward to the day as much as we were. We joked about the line and loved watching the expressions of people realizing how long it actually was when they came up. We finally got to the bus lines almost an hour after we arrived and we ended up on a different bus than our new bus line friends...I was sorry I didn't say good bye because there was a great chance I would never see them again!
The bus ride took a little longer than Wednesday, too, probably just due to the crazy amount of people in the area. I texted our ticket connection and said we would probably be arriving at the gate about 7:25am...I felt bad that he would have to wait for us instead of being out on the course early but he was truly great about it.
The time stamp on this photo was 7:28am so we were pretty close to when we thought we'd get there. As you can see it was another gloomy morning, but the forecast said sunny and mid 60's later in the day so we were hopeful! The mass of people was amazing...again, I was completely struck by the enormity of it all. Our ticket guy, Rick, was waiting for us and after some grateful thanks we were in the gate.
We were welcomed by noises and cheers from the first tee since the first group was set to go off in less than 5 minutes! A lady was handing something out in front of us and it turned out to be the I'm in Arnie's Army pins (I heard later they gave away 50,000 of them!) I was honored to wear mine on my lanyard. We walked over to #1 green and realized that we needed a plan, now. Walking around the green to get by #2 tee we stopped and assessed our situation and to decide where to go next. And then, out of no where were our bus line friends!! I couldn't help but get excited and we even did a group hug before we went on our own journeys.
Jordan Spieth & Patrick Reed were coming up #2 as we were there so we stayed and watched. I got one picture that showed how dewy it was - the weather was supposed to break and get warmer but there was definitely moisture in the atmosphere in the morning! We got stuck at the tee box on #3 because Reed/Spieth were already there so a took a few quick picks before they would let us through (see photo gallery below).
Deb thought #7 would be a great hole to watch on...it's the one right on Lake Hazeltine and it's definitely a risk-reward tee shot with a good chance to make birdie. Even though it would be awhile until we'd see anyone we'd have to go now if we wanted a chance to get decent views. As we headed up #2 we saw some "interesting" fan outfits - I really do appreciate the Team USA support!! But that said, there were some awesome Team Europe groups of fans, too.
I wasn't surprised to see that the small grandstand was already full with a line. I remembered there was some space on the left side of the grandstand near the green so we took a chance and sure enough we could get right up to the rope. The only downside to the spot was that it was on a pretty steep hill so my legs and back were going to feel it standing there.
We settled in next to a nice couple from just south of London - Emma and Turbin (sp?) - while clearly Team Europe fans, they couldn't have been nicer! They had the radios you could buy to listen to the coverage and Emma agreed to give us updates as we waited - it was AWESOME! We told her that she definitely had a career in broadcasting if she wanted it...turns out she's a lawyer, so I think she's good.
Being right up against the ropes was awesome and we soon surrounded with fans about 10 deep around us - we met some other nice people, a guy from Oklahoma and some guys that actually lived not far from Hazeltine. There was a scoreboard on #7 but our radio friends were keeping us up to date on the action happening behind us. While still cloudy, and even some fog off Lake Hazeltine, you could sense the groups were getting closer. We could barely see the tee from where we were but it was easy to see where the tee balls were landing.
We could hear the cheering by the tee box and we were excited to finally get some action! The first group to come through was Speith & Reed. Reed teed off and Spieth put it close for a birdie! This is when we found out about "the green people" (as we called them). These were the cell phone police - by the greens they monitored everyone - the rule was you could take pictures until the bags when down or they were getting ready to putt (or chip). They would often announce to put cell phones down if you weren't sure.
The green people walked with each group, so some were more strict than others. I can't recall any media reports of distracted camera activity, but I won't lie, I did snap a few after the phones down announcement was made...but true to form, the pics usually weren't any good anyway. We did have a great spot for taking pictures so I'm glad a got a few memorable ones.
The next group coming up was Mickelson/Fowler. Fowler teed off in the alternate shot so Phil had the approach which he put comfortably on the green. The Europeans had some trouble on this hole and ended up in the hazard by the green. Another birdie for team USA!
Zach Johnson and Jimmy Walker were next - I loved that Zach had on giant mittens. With the pin in the back of the green most groups were getting it fairly close. They make it look so easy! Another birdie by Team USA!
The final group, who of course I was waiting for was Dustin Johnson & Matt Kuchar. I was hoping for a first day Matt & Phil pairing, so I was a little surprised him being put with DJ, but I could live with it!
After the groups were through #7 we decided to head over to the back side and find another spot to watch. We wandered over to 15 and I had hopes to go where we watched on Wednesday, but 15 was packed so we ended up going on the far side of the fairway and ended up by the jumbo screen. We could see the players and the approach shots and while the green was a ways away we could still see putts.
And as we know, it was a USA sweep in the morning matches!! Matt & Dustin didn't even make it to 15, they closed out early! Once the teams were through 15 Deb and I decided it was time for lunch! There was a food station close by and we had burgers - I was glad I brought my Callaway beach towel to sit on in the grass. A lady from Ontario sat by us and told us she ended up coming by herself because her husband couldn't make it - she drove over 20 hours!! WOW!! She told us she ended up selling her other set of weekly tickets to a scalper, but didn't say for how much.
Once lunch was over we decided to head back to #7 again for the afternoon matches - by now there were even more people at the course and when we went back there were already lots of people there - I got us a spot somewhat close to the ropes and we had a decent view. And I may have forgotten to mention that the sun came out!! But our excitement from the morning sweep was fading as USA struggled in the afternoon. Deb and I were both regretting our over/under bet on how many birdies we'd see after the birdie-fest in the morning. It felt like the jinx was on!
After watching the groups on #7 we decided to head back towards the clubhouse - I was starting to feel my back giving out again and we hadn't been to the merchandise tent yet!! We got stopped by #9/#10 so we hung out there for a bit but then were able to keep going. I was able to contain my shopping (at least compared to Wednesday) and Deb found a few things (clearly she had more will power than I did!!)
We checked the scoreboard and could see the afternoon was not going to be the best - we stopped by the Arnie tribute panels, signed it, and then headed for the buses. The lines were long but we made it through without too much trouble...but of course we were going to be in the thick of rush hour AND since it was Friday there were a lot people going our way home! With a relatively short stop to grab a bite to eat, it took me just over 5 hours to get home. UGH. I definitely needed sleep and I was going to be back on the road in less than 15 hours for Ryder Cup Sunday!!
But it was hard to sleep right away because it was the BEST DAY!!
(I'm going to post this first and then add the photo gallery!)
THANKS for reading!!