News & Opinion

Yanks show their true colors in France

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Retirees Sandy and Dave Dickman of Woodbury, Minn., live not far from Hazeltine National Golf Club, but they were unable to buy tickets for the 2016 Ryder Cup.

It was sold out.

So, when they heard the event was heading to Le Golf National near Paris, they were all-in right away.

“Since we missed Hazeltine because we couldn’t get tickets, when we found out this year was Paris, it was, All right, let’s go,” Dave Dickman said.

“Paris is my favorite city,” Sandy said.

“It being in Paris helped my case,” Dave said. “I’m an avid golfer, and this is a bucket-list kind of a thing for me.”

He bought tickets online a couple of years ago. Booked a companion river cruise. Reserved a room in the City of Light. Oh, and an Atlantic cruise to get back to the U.S.

So, 2016 was local, and they missed it. This year, it’s 4,200 miles away, and they made it.

“Seeing the Ryder Cup in Paris, it makes it more special,” Dave said.

Many other Americans are in France for the Ryder Cup. A group of some 50 U.S. fans stood prominently in the middle of the first-tee grandstands, with three large American flags unfurled in front of them, cheering and chanting. It was a more creative production than the one-dimensional “USA! USA!” They seemed to have learned something over the years from the more creative Euro fans.

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American fans might not have had much to celebrate regarding their team’s play so far during the Ryder Cup, but that hasn’t kept them from enjoying the trip to Paris.

© GOLFFILE/PHIL INGLIS
American fans might not have had much to celebrate regarding their team’s play so far during the Ryder Cup, but that hasn’t kept them from enjoying the trip to Paris.

Of course, fashionable attire are red, white and blue stars-and-stripes pants, floppy hats and shirts of the same color scheme. One guy even dyed his beard and hair red, white and blue. That’s real commitment.

Barb Swan of Gerry, N.Y., decided to come to the Ryder Cup with 10 of her relatives after her niece and nephew won Golf Channel’s “Ultimate Golf Fanatic” sweepstakes in September 2016, with the prize being a trip to the Ryder Cup. Her niece and nephew submitted the most compelling 60-second video on why they were the biggest Ryder Cup fanatics.

The traveling party includes the two winners, their parents, the boyfriend and girlfriend of the winners, Swan and her husband, and the father of the boyfriend of the winner. Total 11. Everyone is staying in the same large home in Paris, Swan said.

“We have had a great week so far,” Swan said. “We got here Monday. We have been going to museums, going to practice rounds; we have been to the Eiffel Tower a couple of times. We have been taking the Metro.”

Swan and her husband, a contractor, typically attend the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head Island, S.C., as there is no PGA Tour event near their home in southwestern New York.

“I love golf,” she said. “I have Justin Rose’s autograph from Hilton Head.”

Kyle Tate, 31, an IT project manager, and Peyton Knapp, 32, an acquisition and divestment land manager, both of Houston and veteran attendants of the Houston Open, began organizing their pilgrimage more than a year ago.

“Bucket list, honestly,” Tate said. “Ryder Cup in France. It doesn’t get much better than that. Best golfers in the world competing all in one place. And in France. Never been to Europe, either. It’s been great.”

These men executed a strategic viewing plan, too.

“We watched the first group tee off this morning and skipped right to the fourth tee,” Tate said. “We were right there at the fourth tee box, and we saw everybody go through, up close. It was amazing.”

“The trip of a lifetime,” Knapp called it. “We’re rooting for the home team, but I’m out here to see Rory, Rose, Molinari, too.”

Mike Miller, a retired soils engineer from Orange County, Calif., came with his wife, his brother and sister-in-law. Once the women heard that the event was in Paris, their interest in golf spiked.

They attended the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah, during which the Americans collapsed on the final day.

“Ryder Cup is like no other sporting event,” Miller said. “It’s like a football game. It’s not so much about watching golf; it’s more the event. It’s the people watching, and watching everything that’s going on around you.”

He said Le Golf National, which essentially was built to host the Ryder Cup, offers far better viewing than Medinah because of its many massive mounds, whereas Medinah was more of a traditional venue.

“From a spectator’s standpoint, you have much better vantage points,” Miller said.

He also praised the French for good organization and transportation.

“Our ability to get to and from Paris, the Ryder Cup travel cards, the access to rail and mass transit … and when you get off the train, there are buses waiting to bring you to the golf course,” Miller said. “That’s been one of the highlights. Riding the Metro has been fun.”

Laura Cannon of Scottsdale, Ariz., by way of Kansas City, said she and her husband and another couple began planning their trip more than a year ago.

“It’s something that we’ve always wanted to do, and our friends suggested that we come with them to enjoy Paris and the Ryder Cup,” Cannon said. “We went online and bought our tickets a year ago. It has been great. It’s a gorgeous venue. We’ve had a few comments from the European fans, but all good-natured and fun.”

Miller said it didn’t take him long to tell a European fan from an American.

“I don’t know how to explain it,” Miller said. “There’s a Euro look. The first is the shoes. The second thing is looking at the jackets that they’re wearing, and, typically, if there’s anyone wandering around with a scarf on, they’re French.

“The Americans are usually wearing a ball cap, and they’re usually heavier,” Miller said. “That’s the thing about most Americans; they’re carrying more weight.”

Barry Cronin, a former golf writer with the Chicago Sun-Times, is media director for the John Deere Classic and head of Cronin Communications. He lives in Park Ridge, Ill. Email: bcronin@cronincommunications.com