Prohibition should be Ryder Cup tradition

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Hilton Head, SC - Harbour Town Golf Links

5:05:03 PM ET. 04/20/2014




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1Matt Kuchar-7F-11
2Luke Donald-215-10
3Ben Martin-417-9
4John Huh-215-8
T5Scott Brown-4F-7
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Recent history has had a sobering effect on the Ryder Cup Matches.

In 1999, belligerent crowd behavior at Brookline, Mass., convinced Ryder Cup organizers that they needed to rethink policies on alcohol sales. In 2001, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America prompted a year’s postponement of the event and a year’s worth of soul-searching that put the Ryder Cup back into the proper perspective.

As a result, the 34th Ryder Cup Matches at The Belfry were the most civil in 20 years.

“The crowd have been exemplary this week, just tremendous,” said European captain Sam Torrance. “There was great support, very fair. They clapped for good shots on the Americans, and they clapped a wee bit louder on shots for us.”

His American counterpart, Curtis Strange, agreed. “The fans have been nothing short of fantastic,” he said.

Spectators were partisan, which is only natural and should be expected at an international competition like the Ryder Cup. But they weren’t outrageous. Nary an insult was hurled. Unheard were the raucous chants favored by European soccer fans. Gone were the rabid return volleys of U-S-A! U-S-A!

There’s no question that the circumstances behind the year’s delay softened the buildup to this Ryder Cup. Whenever queried about the subject, both captains and all 24 players downplayed the ugly side of the matches – largely born of the “War By The Shore” promotion of 1991 – and expressed hope that crowd behavior at The Belfry would not be hostile.

Their wish came true, but not because spectators suddenly became more respectful and knowledgeable of golf. The Belfry was less rowdy because alcohol could not be purchased on the course, and patrons were prohibited from taking drinks away from public and corporate hospitality areas.

The no-alcohol policy didn’t go unnoticed by Colin Montgomerie and his wife, Eimear.

“It’s the biggest drug in the world, alcohol,” Montgomerie said. “You mix alcohol with the sun and the heat, something’s bound to go wrong. I think it’s extraordinary how they’ve taken control of it here.”

Allowing spectators to drink on the course “encourages them to be bold,” said Eimear Montgomerie, who had to endure the insults heaped on her husband as she followed his matches at Brookline.

Patrons at The Belfry generally accepted the restrictions without question.

“People have been very good,” said security guard Paul Haughton, who was posted at the exit of the main concession area, near a sign that read “NO ALCOHOL BEYOND THIS POINT.”

“Even when I’ve challenged them, no one has given me any trouble. People have been first class, really.”

There’s no excuse for the PGA of America and the Ryder Cup committee at Oakland Hills not to adopt a similar policy when the 35th Ryder Cup Matches are held at the venerable club in suburban Detroit. Banning on-course drinking was an unqualified success at The Belfry. We should expect nothing less in 2004 and beyond.

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