‘Every green we went up to, they were clapping’

SUPPORT isn’t how you say it but how you show it, and at the Ryder Cup the fans were going all out to wear their golfing hearts on their sleeves.

Some did it by leaving their homes at 5am and turning up at the K Club gates at 6am to see in a cold, damp dawn, while securing their place at the top of the queue.

Some picked a tee, climbed into the grandstand and dug in to wait for the game to come to them, even though the wait would last long, hungry, muscle-freezing, joint-seizing hours.

For the gabby Irish, the single act of sacrificing their mobile phones for the day was sufficiently gallant to prove the strength of their allegiance to game and player.

Others literally used their sleeves — as well as every other part of their garments. Americans dressed head to toe in stars and stripes — socks and dangly earrings included; the Irish dug out their Italia ‘90 soccer ensemble complete with sagging leprechaun hats and faded jerseys; Spaniards were resplendent in vibrant reds and yellows, and all round, Europeans were wrapped in blue and circled in gold stars, like an EU mobile information unit.

The discreet hung flags from their hats. The less so dyed their hair blue. Half the male population of the Scottish highlands turned up to support Colin Montgomerie in kilts and hairy legs.

The American WAGs daintily waved mini-flags or wore tasteful Team USA armbands, which only gently clashed with their autumnal coloured outfits. Their European counterparts painted their fingernails in a fetching range of Euro-colours.

All day as the showers came and went, the die-hards never abandoned their duty, staying on their feet for hours, sitting on wet grass and gradually accumulating a grand layer of mud as they followed their heroes around the course.

John O’Neill from Galway was one of the first in line when the gates opened at 7am, a commitment that cost him all but three hours’ sleep. “I’m a bit tired, but a lot of these guys have come a long way to play here, and, as well as wanting to see them, I wanted to show my appreciation. Golf is a television sport to a lot of people but the players can’t hear you shouting at the television.”

Margaret Lacey from Weybridge in England and her husband Ron had taken up positions on the 10th tee from early morning.

“It is a wait but we’ve sent our son to get breakfast for us, so that will keep us going. It will be worth it in the end,” said an upbeat Margaret. “I used to think golf was boring before I started playing. Now I’m happy to sit looking at a green for half the day.”

But are the big names appreciative, or even conscious, of their fans’ displays of devotion, gripped as they were in concentration?

Darren Clarke said the welcome he got when he stepped on to the first tee to be greeted by several thousand spectators was something he would never forget.

Sergio Garcia declared he had goosebumps. Colin Montgomerie, who has seen and heard it all, said it was his noisiest reception ever.

But American JJ Henry, a rookie to the Ryder Cup whom even ardent golf fans struggled to recognise when he first stepped out on practice days, was probably most impressed of all.

“They were awesome. I mean, every hole, every green we went up to, they were clapping,” he gushed. “It really was awesome, it really was.”

More in this section

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence


Have the Irish Examiner delivered to your door. No delivery charge. Just pay the cover price.