Ryder Cup: mutual admiration club at world’s greatest love-in

IN the end there was such a love-in, it felt wrong to have forced the two sides in the Ryder Cup to play each other at all.

As the, let’s say it one more time, world’s greatest golf event, came to a close in a sun-baked ceremony just before six yesterday evening, the mutual outpourings of admiration and appreciation were so torrential that the umbrellas abandoned after the downpours of the morning were almost called into use again.

The chairman of Ryder Cup Europe recalled the spirit of Samuel Ryder and heaped praise on the manner in which the Americans played. The president of PGA America lauded European captain Ian Woosnam for his great leadership, inspirational touch and all-round wonderfulness.

US captain Tom Lehman called Woosnam “a heck of a guy”. Woosie told “Captain Tom”, as he called him, that he could go home with pride. The wee Welshman then got too loved-up altogether. This was, he said, “the greatest week in history”.

No doubt historians, anthropologists, philosophers and theologians will be queuing up to challenge this particular view of events since time began, starting perhaps with the contention that the creation might have been the greatest week in history, or maybe the ending of World War II or some other occasion in the map of mankind.

But undeterred, Woosie waxed on. The fans, the caddies — on both sides of course, the superintendent of the greens, the volunteers, his wife and his team were all fantastic. He stopped short of picking out for special mention the crowd in the stands waving Welsh flags and wielding a giant stuffed dragon but that was surely only because the sun was in his eyes.

The teams stood and applauded each other heartily, in fact almost sorrowfully, as if to say “sorry it wasn’t you that won” and “real glad it’s not us taking the cup home”. Parish rivalry GAA-style, this was not.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, meanwhile, concentrated on love-bombing Team Ireland, their great leader, Dr Michael Smurfit, and the fine people of the Ryder Cup who had chosen this humble little island to host their stupendously great event.

“It has been a great privilege for our country to host the 2006 Ryder Cup here at the magnificent K Club,” he began. “As a golfing nation we have taken great delight and indeed great pride in welcoming the best players from Europe and America to compete here on this superb golf course. We have been very grateful to have this opportunity to showcase Ireland as a great golfing and visitor destination.”

Bertie reminded us that the, one last time, world’s greatest golf event, had been eight years in the preparation in Co Kildare. Only eight? It seemed longer.

To all involved, he sent his blessings. “You have shown that the Irish have a great spirit to put on the best show in town, that we can rise to the challenge put to us and do a job of work in a totally professional and competent manner.”

As the, absolutely last time, world’s greatest golf event, moves from the emerald isle to the bluegrass state for 2008, Ernie Fletcher, governor of hosts Kentucky, continued the theme.

“You have worked together to set the highest standards of integrity and excellence,” he said. But at last a hint of competitive spirit — he said he hoped to match, or even exceed, the achievement in two years’ time.

The famous gold cup was brought to the stage by 11-year-old twins Lisa and Leona Maguire from Fermanagh, who between them have left all peers standing in the under-12 European and USA championships.

They are the future of golf, we were assured. Of course, unless they submit to gender reassignment, go to the Court of Human Rights or risk Samuel Ryder turning somersaults in his grave, they will never actually get to play in the competition.

World’s greatest golf event? Not yet, but full marks for trying.

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