Saturday, 2 October 2010

Loving Europe - Loving Sam Ryder

I love Europe.
I love Golf.
I adore the Ryder Cup.

It was a great shame to see the torrential rain ruin the opening day of a long-awaited contest here in Wales. We were warned that the weather for this weekend would be poor and indeed it's likely that Sunday's play may suffer the same fate as yesterday.

In fact, I'd say it's probably odds-on that for the first time in Ryder Cup history, this bi-annual get together could roll into 4th day. It's certainly making Celtic Manor stand out.

But, for all the golf and for all the competitive tension, there's a particular reason why I love this wonderful sporting spectacle - the flag.

The European Flag
I am, an unabashed European. Many people aren't.

Many of those people who don't like the concept of 'Europe' will be backing the boys in their quest against those mighty Americans this weekend. This amuses me greatly. For the symbol that brings us all together for this one weekend every other year, is that blue European flag.

'Europe' and the Euopean Union, in its widest form, symbolises what is best about human nature. It's about co-operation, listening, understanding. It's about putting to one side narrow individual goals, to work together for a better, combined result.

So, as it happens, is the Ryder Cup.

Some Ryder Cup History (I) - USA Rampant
It is not conincidental that the current Ryder Cup format has only become competitive as a sporting fixture, since America's opponents, originally Great Britain from 1927-1971 and then Great Britain & Ireland from 1973-1977 morphed to become 'Europe' in 1979.

Between 1927-1979, the USA won 18 Ryder Cups (with a tie in 1969 which meant that they retained the trophy). They only lost on 3 occasions - in 1929, 1933 and 1957.

Some Ryder Cup History (II) - Europe to the Rescue
Although the Americans continued their winning ways through the first 3 Ryder Cups against an enlarged European opposition, since 1985, all that has changed. The famous Tony Jacklin led victory at the Belfry that year, was the first of 7 victories (with a tie in 1989 which meant that they retained the trophy) against an American tally of only 4 that brings us to the Celtic Manor in 2010.

Clearly, extending the team to include players from across Europe has expanded the pool of talent from which the team can be chosen. This has finally given the fixture a real compeitive edge.

What does this demonstrate? That working together as a wider union of players has brought us success. Simples.

It's great that this has occurred in such a sport as golf. For this is one of those sports where the onus is on the 'individual'. The Ryder Cup is one of the rare opportunities for these individuals to come together for the well being of the wider collective.

Ryder Cup = Europe / Europe = Ryder Cup
The analogy is a nice one. Just where working together as a team (be it in the foreballs or particularly in the foresomes) brings us success in the Ryder Cup, working together with our neighbouring countries in Europe has brought a 65+ year peace to a continent that begat two world wars.

How wonderful then, that 'our' Ryder Cup team plays under the banner of the European flag.

A Salute to Sam Ryder
There are many who don't share my enthusiasm for an 'European vision'. Many who have a 'glass half empty' philosophy on life. C'est la vie. That is the way of the world.

But for this one weekend every other year, I take great comfort in the irony that many of them will be supporting, with great gusto, a team that plays under that European flag. It may be a personal dilemma for them, but it certainly isn't for me.

I love Europe.
I love Golf.
I adore the Ryder Cup.

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