From our May 2019 special Milwaukee Golf issue
With sing-song chants, flag-waving spectators in flashy outfits and an intensifying on-course rivalry between golfers from the United States and Europe, the Ryder Cup is a one-of-a-kind sporting spectacle that is certain to attract worldwide attention when Whistling Straits in Sheboygan County hosts the 2020 matches.
“I can say with confidence that this might be the most significant sporting event that Wisconsin has ever hosted,” Ryder Cup Director Jason Mengel says.
The region has been no stranger to major golf tournaments in recent years, including the U.S. Open at Erin Hills in 2017. But the Ryder Cup, held every other year and alternating between sites in the United States and Europe, is seen as a crowning achievement.
“The first-tee environment alone at the Ryder Cup should be on every sports fan’s bucket list,” Mengel says. “At the PGA Championship, I may be rooting for Tiger [Woods] and you for Rory [McIlroy]. But at the Ryder Cup, we’ll be side by side cheering for the United States, while our friends from Europe will be doing the same on their side.”
As many as 45,000 spectators are expected to be on site each day during the Sept. 22-27 event, with an economic impact of $135 million for the region, Mengel says. NBC and the Golf Channel will provide 27 hours of live coverage.
Tickets are being distributed through a random draw. Registration opened today and is available through Sept. 13, 2019, at rydercup.com. Prices will be announced this summer. Demand from the business community has been strong, with 30-person hospitality suites quickly selling out.
Preparations already are well underway for the Ryder Cup, including changes – mainly to accommodate so many spectators – to the grounds (though not to the course itself) and the Straits layout on which the matches will be held. A unique challenge is that, due to the format, at times only certain holes will be in play.
“If we have 45,000 people on the property at one time and maybe only four or five holes are being played, we need to get those people around the course, but we also have to make sure that everyone is enjoying their experience, even when play is not right near them,” says Mike O’Reilly, golf operations manager for Kohler Co., which runs Whistling Straits. “So, we will have bleachers and huge jumbotrons in certain locations.”
Adding to the intrigue is Edgerton native Steve Stricker serving as U.S. team captain. “He’s arguably the most successful professional golfer ever from Wisconsin,” says O’Reilly.
Stricker, who now lives in Madison, is expected to make multiple visits to Whistling Straits and as early as this summer will begin making recommendations about course setup. “It’s part of the home course advantage,” O’Reilly says. “The captain can set up the golf course the way he thinks best favors our team.”