The Ryder Cup was long overdue coming to Ireland but is going to be worth the wait, golf legend Tony Jacklin announced today.
The four-times European captain was in Dublin to open the World Golf Hall of Fame exhibition on the history of the bi-annual duel at the National Museum.
It is the first time much of the collection which is permanently housed at St Augustine, Florida, has been on public display outside the US.
“It’s a real showstopper, you have to see it to believe it,” said Jacklin. “Anyone who loves golf should spend a morning at it.
“I haven’t had time to read all the inscriptions yet, but I’m going to have a quiet stroll through reminiscing, that’s for sure.”
With the country gripped in Ryder Cup fever just weeks ahead of the clash at the K Club in Kildare, organisers are expecting tens of thousands of people to visit the show at Collin’s Barracks.
The rare memorabilia includes Jack Nicklaus’ team blazer from 1969 – the year of his famed ’concession’ to Jacklin – as well as souvenirs from Ben Crenshaw, Bernhard Langer, Arnold Palmer, Seve Ballesteros and Payne Stewart.
There is a special emphasis on the great Irish golfers who played in the Ryder Cup teams through the year, including Christy O’Connor Snr, Harry Bradshaw and Fred Daly.
One of the biggest draws is Paul McGinley’s putter and ball, memorably used to clinch victory for the Europeans in 2002.
Several medals and trophies are also on display, among them Jacklin’s 1989 Ryder Cup trophy.
The veteran, who played seven consecutive transatlantic duels before leading the Europeans through a further four as non-playing captain, said he was thrilled when he heard the contest was coming to Straffan, Co Kildare.
“It was obviously long overdue, but in some respects it was worth the wait because the popularity of the event now is enormous and Ireland is going to be able to wallow in the tremendous publicity. It’s great for the country as a whole,” he said.
The 62-year-old winner of two majors refused to be drawn on who he fancied to pick up the trophy on September 24, but issued a warning to his successors in the European camp.
“The home team is going to have a great support, but I did see a bit more team spirit in the American side at the President’s Cup the last time,” he said.
“They got very passionate and excited and if they can bring that kind of spirit to the matches in Ireland then we are going to have to watch out. But it’s going to be close, that’s why we all come to watch it.”