Ryder Cup Memories: 1997 Valderrama GC
By Jim Ward, President of Premier Golf
Now the Ryder Cup competition was getting intense. After a tie in 1989, the last three matches were decided by just one point each. For the first time ever, in 1997, the Ryder Cup was held on the European continent at Valderrama Golf Club in Sotogrande, Spain. Premier Golf had some additional challenges with this one; language, culture and limited accommodations. In order to accommodate the incredible demand for packages we chartered two large, luxury cruise ships.
On the Concorde
In 1997, Premier Golf was also given the responsibility of chartering the Concorde to transport the Ryder Cup team to Spain. By agreement with the PGA, we provided 50 seats for the official Ryder Cup party. The remaining 50 seats we packaged with luxury hotel accommodations, rounds of golf and a black tie dinner with the Ryder Cup team. My wife and I were on board to serve as hosts for our guests.
We met in the British Airways first class lounge at Kennedy Airport prior to departure. The Ryder Cup team came in and they couldn’t have been more sociable, chatting with our guests and posing for photos. About halfway through the flight, Tom Kite, Ryder Cup captain, got on the intercom and announced; “Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention. We’ve been doing some calculating up here and we’ve decided that if we were to putt a ball from the front of this plane to the back, as fast we’re traveling, the ball will have gone over 20 miles. I’ve got Brad Faxon, my best putter, up here to prove it”.
Well, that’s exactly what they did. Faxon putted a ball down the aisle and passengers were using hands and feet to keep it moving all the way to the back. Afterwards, Kite retrieved the ball, signed it and presented it to European Captain Seve Ballesteros who greeted us when we arrived in Spain. Pretty hard to top that Ryder Cup memory.
Another one point heartbreak
The U.S. was down by 5 points after the first two days. They staged a furious rally in the Sunday singles matches but came up one point short, 14.5 to 13.5. Now, it’s back to the U.S. and the Historic Country Club in Brookline, MA.