Ryder Cup Memories: Flying the Concorde in 1997
By Jim Ward, President of Premier Golf
The Ryder Cup competition was really starting to get 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, including language, culture and limited accommodations. In order to accommodate the incredible demand for packages we chartered two large, luxury cruise ships.
In 1997, Premier Golf was also given the responsibility of chartering the Concorde, the supersonic airliner, 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 JFK Airport in New York City 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 please. We’ve been doing some calculating up here and 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. I’ve had lots of great Ryder Cup memories but it’s pretty difficult to to top that magical putt aboard the Concorde.
Valderrama was another heartbreak, though.
The U.S. was down by 5 points after the first two days. Our team staged a furious rally in the Sunday singles matches but came up one point short, 14.5 to 13.5.