Back in 1927, Golf Illustrated said “the Ryder Cup has done so much to foster that great spirit of international rivalry that makes the present-day sport the great thing that it is.”
Almost 90 years on, after one of the most highly-competitive matches in years, this spirit is more alive than ever. Sunday alone produced just about everything – eagles, birdies, long putts, comebacks and plenty of celebrations. Speaking as an average golf fan, nothing tops the Ryder Cup. But how can it affect the game on a wider scale?
Much has been made of golf’s declining participation levels – especially in the U.S. and Europe. This was perhaps further highlighted by the recent announcements of Nike and Adidas that they are to stop making golf clubs, which is a bitter blow to the industry.
There may have been more positive signs for the sport in parts of Asia, and golf’s inclusion at the Olympics can only help this. However, the fact is the PGA and European Tours remain two of the biggest players in professional golf.
And boy did they put on a show at Hazeltine.
The PGA of America has predicted around 50,000 fans attended each day, with a worldwide audience close to 500 million. That doesn’t sound like a sport in decline to me.
As much as it pains me to say as a European, I hope the American media milk their win as much as possible over the next two years. Patrick Reed’s putt to defeat Rory McIlroy on the 18th green, and the ensuing elation, should be ingrained into every American child’s memory. If just a quarter of these kids go on to participate in golf at some level, the game’s future will be secure for at least another generation.
Last year, a European Tour survey showed participation levels in the UK were actually on the rise, particularly amongst young people. I’m not suggesting this is a direct result of Europe’s Ryder Cup successes, but it can’t have done any harm.
Golf participation in the UK could be better than first thought (source: European Tour)
From an American perspective, the Ryder Cup really encaptures two things they are very good at – patriotism and enthusiastically supporting their sports teams. This was a large reason behind the unique atmosphere at Hazeltine. But was it the only reason? No.
The quality of golf on display over the weekend was nothing short of extraordinary. I can’t remember one moment where there was a lull, and the players of both sides deserve huge credit for that.
Many non-golfers around the world will have their own reasons for checking out the Ryder Cup this weekend for the first time, but you can bet it was the quality of golf that kept them coming back for more. The event is undeniably very special, but everyone involved in the game would do well to remind those first-timers they don’t need to wait another two years to see our sport at its best.
The Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship, PGA Championship, Fed Ex Cup, heck – even the Presidents Cup.
Arnold Palmer was always one to widen golf’s appeal to everyone. Let’s use this Ryder Cup to resonate and spread his message.