More than 40,000 golf fans flocked to Whistling Straits in Sheboygan County on Friday as the 43rd Ryder Cup got underway.
Traffic backed up long before sunrise on the rural roads leading to the scenic course along the shore of Lake Michigan. Fans clad in red, white and blue packed the stands around the first tee with the dew-covered course still shrouded in darkness and temperatures in the upper 40s.
A few golfers warmed up on the practice putting green under the glow of temporary lights as fans snapped photos.
By the time the sun first appeared on the horizon, nearly every seat in the first-tee stands was occupied. Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” and other tunes blared from the sound system as the coffee-fueled crowd excitedly waited for the first golfers to make their way to the tee.
The Ryder Cup is being contested through Sunday with 12-member teams from the United States and Europe squaring off. The championship is held every other year with U.S. and European golf courses alternating as host.
This marks the first time that the Ryder Cup has been held in Wisconsin.
Supporters of the U.S. team greatly outnumbered those following the European squad, due in large part to lingering pandemic-related travel restrictions. Chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” reverberated through the horseshoe-shaped stands on the first tee. The U.S. throng, many of whom were dressed in wild outfits, repeatedly broke into song, easily drowning out the efforts of the European contingent.
The crowd erupted when U.S. captain and Wisconsin native Steve Stricker first appeared.
With the sun now shining brightly on the course, European teammates Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia stepped onto the first tee only to be greeted with good-natured jeers. The decidedly pro-home country crowd then roared and vigorously waved small American flags when Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas appeared clad in the U.S. team colors.
The stands remained jammed until all four groups of golfers had teed off. Thousands of spectators then hustled in different directions along the rugged course known for its breathtaking views to stake out spots with the hope of catching a glimpse of their favorite golfers in what became a picture-perfect early autumn day.
As the early morning temperatures began to climb, a few fans who crowded along the ropes lining the seventh hole light-heartedly complained that beer sales didn’t begin until 10 a.m. They settled for more coffee and burritos.
But the excitement brought on by being present at one of the most unique sporting events the world has to offer seemed to be all that was needed to lift the spirits of golf fans who had to wait an additional year due to a postponement brought on by the pandemic to make their way to Whistling Straits for the Ryder Cup.