Ryder Cup enthusiasm builds

Sure, Medinah’s week to host the 39th Ryder Cup is still a year away. Still, the task of getting ready for the biggest team event in golf is a major undertaking.
Michael Belot, the tournament director, and five staffers have been working feverishly from Medinah and report making great progress. Belot should know, becuase he is in his 10th year working for the PGA of America and was the tournament director for the 2006 PGA Championship, which was also held at Medinah, as well as the 2009 PGA at Hazeltine in Minnesota.
The Ryder Cup, though, is a different animal.
“With all the rich history that the club has, this will stand out as Medinah’s crowned jewel,’’ Belot said. “It’ll be the biggest golf event ever in Illinois.’’
Medinah hosted U.S. Opens in 1949, 1975 and 1990, PGA Championships in 1999 and 2006 and the U.S. Senior Open in 1988. Those were big events — but the battle between the U.S. and Europe on Sept. 25-30, 2012, will be notably bigger.
“Chicago is known for big events,’’ said Belot, “and this market has embraced this Ryder Cup.’’
Here is some evidence of that:
As of this printing 60 corporate hospitality chalets, costing between $235,00 and $500,000, have been sold.
“We started out offering 59 chalets, so now we’re adding chalets that we hadn’t expected to add,’’ said Belot. “We’ve added a village we had not expected to add, and we’re exploring whether to add more.’’
While that sales process is going on Belot’s staffers have been bidding out what’s needed for the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the Ryder Cup gala, which will be held the Wednesday of tournament week.
Public ticket sales to the competition will begin at 8 a.m. on June 20 — the day after the U.S. Open concludes at Congressional. That’s when people can sign up for the random draw for tickets. That’ signup will continue for about two months. Crowds will be limited to about 25,000 per day. (For more details on the ticket situation check out the rydercup.com website).
Tickets will range from $35 for a daily ticket to $680 for the premium weekly offering. All youngsters 17 and under will get complimentary admission on the three practice days if they’re accompanied by a ticketed adult. Such a practice has never been done at a Ryder Cup.
About 3,500 volunteers will be needed to stage the competition, and Belot said about 5,000 have already called in to request assignments. Medinah members will have first crack at the voluntary positions, then what remains will be offered to the general public on July 11. A volunteer package costs $235, which includes a tournament badge, uniforms, meals, programs and other perks.
Already there’s been some notable preliminary events, and more will be forthcoming as the next Ryder Cup closes in. Biggest so far was the press conference announcing Davis Love III as U.S. captain on Jan. 20. Love and European captain Jose Maria Olazabal will have a joint press event at Medinah on Sept. 26, as the one-year to Ryder week countdown begins.
As for Medinah members, they were already treated to the unveiling of a Leroy Neiman painting that the famed artist created to commemorate this Ryder Cup.
Meanwhile, Medinah’s No. 3 course that will be used for the matches will continue to mature after its reopening last year. As part of a major renovation famed architect Rees Jones designed a new 15th hole, adding a pond to create a driveable par-4. That was the major change, but all of the tees and greens were regrassed to conform to U.S. Golf Association specifications. There won’t be any big events on No. 3 this summer to allow the latest renovation to settle in.
“This will be the first time in a long time that no bulldozers are on the golf course, and that’s a good thing,’’ said Don Larson, Medinah’s chairman for the Ryder Cup.
Larson has one concern that he wants to pass on.
“Beware of pirate hospitality groups that are billing themselves as official,’’ said Larson. “Already people are on eBay selling tickets.’’