I had the pleasure of hosting our client’s incentive trip to the 2016 Ryder Cup taking place in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The course for this year’s event was played at the stunning Hazeltine golf course located 45 minutes from Minneapolis.
Being a keen sportsman and a huge fan of the Ryder Cup I was incredible excited to attend this event as it was my first experience of live golf. Plus, it was the first time that Corporate Innovations had attended the Ryder Cup for an incentive, so I was interested whether it would be a ‘hole in one’ or a ‘double bogey’ of an event!
We were located at the Holiday Inn in Downtown St Paul’s, which is famous for its micro-breweries which went down well with our male guests! The hotel is well positioned on 7th Street directly opposite the Xcel Energy Centre which is home to the local ice hockey team, which means there is a wide range of pubs, bars and restaurants, all within walking distance.
On the Thursday we attended the practice day and managed to explore the course and work out the best locations for the competition days. The course was presented in the most impeccable standard, as expected for the US. My big concern was making sure there were plenty of bars and food stalls so our guests could easily be feed and watered and not have queue, which thankfully it did!
On Thursday evening, we attended a celebration evening on Raspberry Island located on the famous Mississippi river. The evening included plenty of local food and drink and for the entertainment we had the guitarist and keyboard player from The Steve Miller band. Yes, they were before my time but I recognised their hit Abracadabra!
Friday Day 1 of the competition and it didn’t take long for the chants of U-S-A, U-S-A….to start ringing out across the galleries and grandstands. We position ourselves at the 4th which was a challenging Par 3. When the US players teed off there would be the odd shouting out of the infamous ‘Get in the hole’, which brought smiles on the face of our guests, who were soaking up the ambiance against the sunshine of Hazeltine.
With our tickets this allowed us to get amongst the action in the galleries but we were also able to access all the grandstands but as you can imagine you’d have to camp out to get a seat. For all of you who followed the competition after the morning Foursomes our morale was low after Europe lost all four games! However, being a true Brit our heads did not drop and thankfully nor did the European players.
The afternoon saw a resurgance helped by the star pairing of McIlroy and Pieters. As a group we decided to follow the pairing which at times was hard due to the crowds, however being right amongst the action made the experience even more special.
A large majority of the US crowd were very friendly to us and were happy to chat and interested to know from where we came. If you’d seen the press and media, there was a large amount of heckling towards the players but this a small minority of the crowd. The popular comment from the US fans were, ‘we like McIlroy, just not this week!’. On the other hand, Danny Willet was getting a majority of the flack which was fuelled by his brother’s comments earlier in the week…!
Saturday Day 2, the hope restored with Europe pulling back 3 points on the Friday afternoon making it US 5; Europe 3. Our guests were keen to see the actions, so we were up early to get the shuttle to Hazeltine. The morning started well with Europe get 2.5 points and the USA claiming 1.5 points. We positioned ourselves at the 13th which was another exciting par 3, which allowed the guests to get within touching distances of the world’s great golfers and their wives and girlfriends.
The afternoon in the fourballs didn’t quite goes as planned with European butchering points and losing 3 to 1.
Day 3, final competition day and 12 rounds of singles. After a late night, only 2 of managed to get up for the first shuttle of the day at 6.30 am to secure our grandstand seats. The advantage of the hotel shuttles was that they offered flexibility for our guests to choose when they wanted to arrive and leave the course.
We managed to secure the best seats in the grandstand overlooking the 9th hole and the 18th. Directly in front of a large TV screen allowing us to follow all the action from the day. We also purchased the Ryder Cup radios which meant that we could feel at home with the tones of John Inverdale and his team at BBC Sport.
Our guests were getting behind the Team Europe along with the other fans in the grandstand that would singing the ‘Olé, Olé, Olé’ chant only to be drowned out by U-S-A or ‘Patrick Reeeed, Patrick Reeeed….’
Even though the final result didn’t go Team Europe’s way (losing 17 points to 11), this didn’t dampen the experience, as this once in a life time trip for them turned out to be a ‘hole in one’ experience.
After attending my first Ryder Cup and experiencing it as an incentive activity I can definitely say that it’s up there with some the world’s greatest events that you can attend. So if you’re reading this and interested in discussing your next incentive or exploring opposition for the Ryder Cup in Paris 2018, then please get in touch.