U.S. golfers, fans need Ryder etiquette lessons

by Sarah Mitchell

Most Americans will remember this year’s Ryder Cup team as heroes who made a valiant charge.
But not me.
As much as I would like to relish in the victory of the red, white and blue, the fans’ ugly display almost matched the distastefully dressed team. No amount of excitement could overcome those two factors.
I’ve decided to step into reality with the rest of the world. Not everyone is still on cloud nine over the victory.
“Yes, they are repulsive people, charmless, rude, cocky, mercenary, humorless, ugly, full of nauseatingly fake religiosity, and as odious in victory as they are in unsporting in defeat,” wrote columnist Matthew Norman in the London Evening Standard.
“The only good thing to be said in the favor of the American golfers, in fact, is that if nothing else, they are better than Europeans.”
The Americans, under the direction of captain Ben Crenshaw, weaseled past the underdog Europeans with the greatest comeback in the Cup’s history. Down 10-6 heading into Sunday’s final round, the U.S. team used singles match play to its advantage. The Americans scored 8 1/2 points and walked away from Brookline, Mass., with a one point victory and a tainted trophy.
So, what tarnished the win?
Fans purposely misdirected Ryder Cup rookie Andrew Coltart, a member of the European team, as he searched for his lost ball.
The gallery timed its shouts with the European backswings.
Still others mismanaged their time at one of the world’s greatest events by spitting on the wife of European captain Mark James and heckling the 70-year-old father of Colin Montgomerie to the point that he left before the final round was over.
If that wasn’t enough, the American team met its faithful at the bottom of sportsmanship. A premature American celebration on the 17th green completed the portrait that led many international papers to use headlines like The Daily Mirror’s “United Slobs of America.”
Winless in the tournament, American Justin Leonard fast became a decorated hero, surrounded by his teammates and their caddies, wives and girlfriends. Leonard had just sunk a 45-foot putt, placing the Cup one putt away.
Spain’s Jose Maria Olazabal — Leonard’s opponent in the match play — was left to watch the party before his chance at a 25-foot putt, to give the Europeans one more stab at retaining the Cup.
Olazabal missed. But what if he would have brought the Cup back to the land of the WLAF? Think about those repercussions. A few Americans would have been mighty embarrassed.
Maybe they could blame it on being in the heat of the moment. But when do you see an entire basketball team empty its bench after the go-ahead basket was made with time remaining on the clock?
James, who quit as Team Europe’s coach Monday, made an even bolder statement. The European team’s return to America in 2003 is in jeopardy, and he called for — at the very least — an alcohol ban at the event.
For a dignified sport, Americans sure know how to make a mockery of the game.
Sarah Mitchell is a general assignment reporter and welcomes comments at [email protected]