Things can get very personal in the Ryder Cup.
The atmosphere swung from raucous to distasteful for Spanish duo Sergio Garcia and Rafael Cabrera Belo, had it not been for Garcia’s then-girlfriend Angela, who politely asked the harassers to stop shouting “horrible things” to the visiting team and their husbands at Hazeltine in 2016.
I told them: “I am here supporting the European team, I am American, and you are embarrassing me.” People around us joined in and said, “Yes, you’re embarrassing us too!”
“So I told the guys I wanted to see American fans better than that, and they said okay, and then they saw me later, and they figured out who I was, and they came and hugged me and apologized. I think there were four of them, we all hugged and it was all right.”
“There are more annoyances now.”
Six-time Ryder Cup holder Fanny Sonnison, the first woman to carry the bag for a major winner in 1990 with England’s Nick Faldo, told CNN how 30 years ago on Kiawah Island – which became known as “War on the Beach” – things got hotter, 1993 leaders Tom Watson and Bernard Gallacher (who led Europe three times in a row from 1991-1995) had to lower the temperature a few degrees.
“I think there’s more annoyances now, even though I haven’t been to the Ryder Cup in the past few years. I’ve just seen that, which is different. In Kiawah it was too much. The next time the two captains calmed it down.
“It has to be about sportsmanship, it’s not a war. It’s a game.
“When the audience cheers, it’s cool. It’s something special. Most of the spectators are great.”
The roars, fist-pumps, massive stands and puffy crowds that surround every green make the Ryder Cup a one-of-a-kind event. And in sports that focus on individuality, it’s a new break from sponsors and dollar bills.
García and Sonnison repeated over and over the word “team” when describing the role of the husband and the pack in a week unlike any other.
“I don’t have bad memories of the Ryder Cup, it’s a great team event,” said Sonson, who now mixes her time commenting on Swedish television, coaching and lecturing.
“It’s a stressful event, you often do 36 holes a day, but you don’t mind. If you do it several weeks in a row, you’ll be totally exhausted. But it’s so special.”
“It’s like one big team where you both help each other. It talks a lot when players who haven’t succeeded and played it want to become deputy captains or even as assistants.”
“It’s something special”
Sunesson noted that Bubba Watson came close to qualifying in 2016 which led to his emotional appointment as deputy captain while Garcia, a former sports journalist who used to play golf from scratch, attended the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and the Champions League Final. Don’t miss the world’s ultimate golf party!
“I think of the Ryder Cup a lot actually. It’s by far my favorite sporting event: it’s something special.
“On Mondays, when we arrive, there is a lot of hugs and jokes and smiles and laughter. Every night we have dinner together and then the guys head out to train and give girls, wives and partners a chance to hang out together, everything is very close.
“We have a group script from 2016 and 2018 that we still use as well, and there’s a new script now. It’s a place where we catch up with each other’s lives, celebrate the victories of our spouses and others, celebrate new kids, friendship is amazing.”
What made the competition—first contested between the United States and Great Britain in 1927—was actually made by many family members, Garcia said.
“If you’re playing for the New York Liberty in the WNBA Finals or the Superbowl, you probably don’t want to have an outside distraction or a family. That’s what makes the Ryder Cup so special, that the pair and partners form part of one great team.”
“The Ryder Cup is a big deal, it’s a big event, they want to win, and if they didn’t think having us around was valuable, we wouldn’t be there.”
“I see that the women are part of the opening ceremony. It’s the Ryder Cup and the men play, it’s not the Solheim Cup, but they join us in the opening ceremony.
“We walk as a team of husbands and partners and leave on an equal footing. I strongly believe in women’s rights and have never felt that happy. If I did, I wouldn’t necessarily want to be a part of who he-she is.”
Bullying and chauvinism
Back in 1986 when Sounison was first offered a bag for a male player to carry, even at that time she had no problems.
On the day Brazilian Jaime Gonzalez chose to carry her for him, standing in line with Annika and Charlotte Sorenstam, they weren’t chosen until the end, but 19-year-old Sonnison never looked back as she went to the cans for Jose Rivero, Anders Forsbrand , Howard Clark before Faldo, her first Ryder Cup experience coming up at Belfry in 1989.
“It was like I didn’t start carrying cans because I was a girl, but for Jaime I didn’t have any bag or he was with me,” she said.
“He chose to be with me which is a good thing. He was a great personality.”
From tackling bullies to bullies and standing up for women’s rights, my mother Garcia is on a “mission” to spread goodness not only on the golf course but beyond.
The 35-year-old, who launched her own foundation – UGLI – in October to coincide with US Citizen Anti-Bullying Awareness Month, said the 35-year-old.
“I took the word UGLY and changed it to UGLI: unique, talented, likable, individual. Our mission is to end bullying forever.
“We have to stop using our phones and computers as a shield to say what we want. We can’t treat people like a piece of gum they just took down the road.
“I’m excited to do some good and change this world and make it a better place. Especially after having kids, and Sergio feels similarly, I can’t live in a world where people are so cruel to each other and people of all ages take their lives because of something someone said to them on social media I have to do something about it.”
“Prone to fits of apathy. Introvert. Award-winning internet evangelist. Extreme beer expert.”