Ryder Cup Memories: 2001/2002 The Belfry
By Jim Ward President of Premier Golf
Unfortunately, not all of my Ryder Cup memories are good ones. On September 10, 2001, we had already mailed out all of the travel documents, including tickets to the Ryder Cup which was to be held in a little over two weeks, beginning September the 28th. The next morning, we watched, along with the rest of the world, as that terrible tragedy played out. We say we will never forget, but I’m not sure people can really remember how shocked and scared we all were during those first hours. And that certainly included those people who were to go to England with us in a few days. Our phones wouldn’t stop ringing. I can remember members of our team, with tears in their eyes, trying desperately to answer questions of frustrated clients with answers they did not have. Has the Ryder Cup been cancelled? The Ryder Cup was not officially cancelled until four days later.
Almost all of the money for hotels and ground transportation was prepaid and non-refundable. Although they were unwilling to offer a refund, these vendors finally agreed to no additional charges for 2002. Those wanting to attend the Ryder Cup in 2002 were able to do so. For those people wanting to cancel, we agreed to re-sell their package and refund their money, which we did…every one of them. It was a terrible time but I do remember a positive…the many e-mails and hand written notes of support as we struggled through a difficult situation.
It’s a different world
Following the events of 9/11, 2001, the Ryder Cup was postponed until 2002. Moving forward, it would now be held in even years. By agreement with the PGA Tour, the President’s Cup would now be held in even years. This meant, of course, that we would have a total of three years since the last Ryder Cup. Frankly, we were looking forward to getting this one behind us. I remember thinking at the 2002 matches at The Belfry that the world was a different place. There was heavy security with men carrying machine guns, screening thousands of spectators, conducting searches and taking no chances. No one objected. The opening ceremonies were very emotional, jets overhead, the many speeches and prayers, even the fluttering of the flags seemed to take on a new meaning.
The 2002 Ryder Cup didn’t have the same fire and “in your face” competitiveness we witnessed in the previous ten years. After 9/11 it was as if the players and fans alike needed a breather. They got it; The Europeans dominated the singles matches and cruised to a 15.5-12.5 victory.
Spending time with one of the greats
I did take away one fond memory of that Ryder Cup. We had hired Billy Casper to serve as a host for our guests. Billy was terrific. He made several private group appearances and had dinner each night with a different group, sharing some wonderful old stories and memories from a hall of fame career. My wife Sandy and I served as escorts for Billy and his wife Shirley, making sure they made it to functions on time and were properly introduced. The story of getting lost on the way to an after dinner speech, I will save for another time. Both my wife and I will cherish the memory of those few days with Billy and Shirley Casper. They are wonderful people.